Follow Your Heart

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Excerpts from Jim Carrey’s 2014 Commencement Speech at M.U.

“Fear is going to be a player in life, but you get to decide how much. You can spend your whole life imagining ghosts, worrying about the pathway to the future, but all it will ever be is what’s happening here, and the decisions that we make in this moment, which are based in either love or fear. 

So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect, so we never dare to ask the Universe for it.

I can tell you from experience, the effect you have on others is the most valuable currency there is. My father could have been a great comedian, but he didn’t believe that that was possible for him, and so he made a conservative choice. 

Instead he got a safe job as an accountant, and when I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job, and our family had to do whatever we could to survive.

I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which, was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.

That peace that we are after lies somewhere beyond personality. Your need for acceptance can make you invisible in this world. Don’t let anything stand in the way of the light that shines through this form. Risk being seen in all of your glory.

You are ready and able to do beautiful things in this world, and as you walk through those doors today, you will only have two choices: love or fear. Choose love, and don’t ever let fear turn you against your playful heart.”

Hard Skills Are Soft Skills Dependent

“If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.”

~ Daniel Goleman 

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K-12 education programs should focus much more instructional time on helping students acquire and practice soft skills, if they expect them to master and apply hard skills in appropriate and effective ways.

The Common Core ELA standards demand that students provide evidence to support their claims yet the authors of the Standards seem to disregard decades of research and data regarding the importance of emotional intelligence.

In fact, David Coleman, the chief architect and lead author of the Common Core has made it very clear where he stands on this issue;

As you grow up in this world, you realize people really don’t give a sh#@ about what you feel or what you think.

The authors of the Common Core continue to maintain that the Standards, which emphasize a narrow set of testable hard skills, will properly prepare our students for the social and emotional challenges of college and careers, despite countless surveys and interviews regarding the critical importance of soft skills…

Do people underperform at your company because they lack these soft skills or do they disappoint because their technical skills aren’t up to snuff?

‘Soft skills are almost always to blame — that’s why we need to get better at measuring them.’

Do your best managers have the strongest technical skills in the company? Or do they excel on the soft side?

‘Soft skills set our best managers apart.’

Is it possible you have excluded some candidates with extraordinary soft skills because they didn’t meet your company’s benchmark for technical brilliance? These are the people who would have become your best managers.

My client refused to answer this question, but the look in his eye was a definite “Oops!…

Lou Adler, “Soft Skills Are Hard to Assess. And Even Harder to Succeed Without.” 3/8/14

In a new study in partnership with American Express (AXP), we found that over 60 percent of managers agree that soft skills are the most important when evaluating an employee’s performance, followed by 32 percent citing hard skills and only 7 percent social media skills. When breaking down which soft skills were most important, managers chose the ability to prioritize work, having a positive attitude, and teamwork skills as their top three requirements for management roles…

Soft skills can’t easily be learned, they need to be developed over time. The big challenge for millennial workers is that they have weaker soft skills than older generations, who expect face-time and teamwork from them. Millennials have spent too much time with their collective noses buried in their iPhones and Facebook pages…

Dan Schwabel, “The Soft Skills Managers Want” 9/4/13

One of my first conversations was with Clay Parker, president of the Chemical Management Division of BOC Edwards—a company that, among other things, makes machines and supplies chemicals for the manufacture of microelectronics devices. He’s an engineer by training and the head of a technical business, so when I asked him about the skills he looks for when he hires young people, I was taken aback by his answer.

“First and foremost, I look for someone who asks good questions,” Parker responded. “We can teach them the technical stuff, but we can’t teach them how to ask good questions—how to think.”

“What other skills are you looking for?” I asked, expecting that he’d jump quickly to content expertise.

“I want people who can engage in good discussion—who can look me in the eye and have a give and take. All of our work is done in teams. You have to know how to work well with others. But you also have to know how to engage customers—to find out what their needs are. If you can’t engage others, then you won’t learn what you need to know…

Tony Wagner, “Rigor Redefined” ASCD Educational Leadership October, 2008

A survey by the Workforce Solutions Group at St. Louis Community College finds that more than 60% of employers say applicants lack “communication and interpersonal skills” — a jump of about 10 percentage points in just two years. A wide margin of managers also say today’s applicants can’t think critically and creatively, solve problems or write well.

As much as academics go on about the lack of math and science skills, bosses are more concerned with organizational and interpersonal proficiency. The National Association of Colleges and Employers surveyed more than 200 employers about their top 10 priorities in new hires. Overwhelmingly, they want candidates who are team players, problem solvers and can plan, organize and prioritize their work. Technical and computer-related know-how placed much further down the list…

Martha C. White, “The Real Reason New College Grads Can’t Get Hired “ 11/10/13

Common Core emphasis on a narrow and shallow set of measurable and testable hard skills rather than cultivating transferable and work-based soft skills means our students will be as well prepared for the real “tests” of college and careers as a contractor with a “fully loaded” tool belt who lacks the confidence, courage, and experience to climb a ladder.

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Don’t Stop Believin’

An arts education helps build academic skills and increase academic performance, while also providing alternative opportunities to reward the skills of children who learn differently. ~ Gavin Newsom

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There is a dramatic “shift” underway with respect to longstanding beliefs in our nation regarding the role and purpose of a public education.

During the BC ( Before Core / Before Coleman) era of public education, parents and teachers believed in the power of individual curiosity and creativity to unleash each child’s unique gifts and abilities.

In the BC era of public education many learning activities were vigorous rather than rigorous, they were passion driven rather than data driven, and they focused on the diverse needs of the students rather than the standardized “needs” of the test.

The Common Core discourages and dispirits many of our students as a belief in the ability of all learners to succeed has been replaced with a belief in the ability of the Common Core standards to “ensure” that every student graduates from high school “ready” for college and careers.

An education system that had previously honored the individual, and endeavored to fulfill the academic, artistic, athletic, and vocational desires along with the social and emotional needs of every student, is being replaced with a standardized system of learning that strives to fulfill the desires of employers and the demands of the learning standards.

Thankfully, growing numbers of parents, teachers, school leaders and defenders of public education are speaking out and teaching out in support of a properly funded public education system that raises up every child and helps each student to discover his or her purpose and passion.

Despite the “sky is falling” rhetoric of education reformers our students will be ready for adulthood and employment as long as we “Don’t Stop Believin” in our public schools and the special talents and abilities of every child.

What Does It Mean To Be Well Educated?

My mother said I must always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy. That some people, unable to go to school, were more educated and more intelligent than college professors. 

~ Maya Angelou

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Education should provide countless opportunities for students to discover their talents and pursue their passions, instead of being an obligation and competition to be “ready” for college and careers.

Schooling should be about students learning to love, being loved, and cultivating a love of learning, rather than students learning primarily for assessment.

It is far more important that students are free to learn in school and well educated, than subjecting them to continuous testing to determine if they have been educated well.

We always find time for what we truly love, one way or another.

Suppose further that love, being an inclusive spirit, refused to choose between Shakespeare and Toni Morrison (or Tony Bennett, for that matter), and we located our bliss in the unstable relationship between the two, rattling from book to book, looking for connections and grandly unconcerned about whether we’ve read “enough,” as long as we read what we read with love…

The whole world’s a classroom, and to really make it one, the first thing is to believe it is.

We need to take seriously the proposition that reflection and knowledge born out of contact with the real world, an education carpentered out of the best combination we can make of school, salon, reading, online exploration, walking the streets, hiking in the woods, museums, poetry classes at the Y, and friendship, may be the best education of all—not a makeshift substitute that must apologize for itself in the shadow of academe…

You get the idea. The American tradition, in learning as well as jazz and activism, is improvisatory.There are as many ways to become an educated American as there are Americans.

To fall short of your highest goals—mastering that imaginary “complete” reading list, say—is OK as long as you stuck to the struggle. And the joy.

~ Jon Spayde, “Learning in the Key of Life”, Utne Reader, 1998

When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life. 

~ John Lennon

Today many schools are eliminating vigorous extracurricular experiences that help students discover the ways they are “smart”, so they can devote more time to preparing students for rigorous standardized tests so the state can measure and compare how “smart” they are.
Ed reformers clearly fail to understand that for many people, success in life was less about how much they had learned in school, and more about whether they had learned how to live…

“Hope that you spend your days, but they all add up
And when that sun goes down, hope you raise your cup
Oh, I wish that I could witness all your joy and all your pain

Hope when the moment comes, you’ll say…

I, I did it all
I, I did it all
I owned every second that this world could give
I saw so many places, the things that I did
With every broken bone, I swear I lived…”

The difference between school and life? In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.

~ Tom Bodett

Leaders in Tech Industry; Computers and Schools Don’t Mix

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“The chief technology officer of eBay sends his children to a nine-classroom school here. So do employees of Silicon Valley giants like Google, Apple, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard.

But the school’s chief teaching tools are anything but high-tech: pens and paper, knitting needles and, occasionally, mud. Not a computer to be found. No screens at all. They are not allowed in the classroom, and the school even frowns on their use at home.

Schools nationwide have rushed to supply their classrooms with computers, and many policy makers say it is foolish to do otherwise. But the contrarian point of view can be found at the epicenter of the tech economy, where some parents and educators have a message: computers and schools don’t mix.

This is the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, one of around 160 Waldorf schools in the country that subscribe to a teaching philosophy focused on physical activity and learning through creative, hands-on tasks. Those who endorse this approach say computers inhibit creative thinking, movement, human interaction and attention spans.

The Waldorf method is nearly a century old, but its foothold here among the digerati puts into sharp relief an intensifying debate about the role of computers in education.

“I fundamentally reject the notion you need technology aids in grammar school,” said Alan Eagle, 50, whose daughter, Andie, is one of the 196 children at the Waldorf elementary school; his son William, 13, is at the nearby middle school. “The idea that an app on an iPad can better teach my kids to read or do arithmetic, that’s ridiculous.”

Mr. Eagle knows a bit about technology. He holds a computer science degree from Dartmouth and works in executive communications at Google, where he has written speeches for the chairman, Eric E. Schmidt. He uses an iPad and a smartphone. But he says his daughter, a fifth grader, “doesn’t know how to use Google,” and his son is just learning. (Starting in eighth grade, the school endorses the limited use of gadgets.)

Three-quarters of the students here have parents with a strong high-tech connection. Mr. Eagle, like other parents, sees no contradiction. Technology, he says, has its time and place: “If I worked at Miramax and made good, artsy, rated R movies, I wouldn’t want my kids to see them until they were 17.”

~By MATT RICHTEL, A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute” NY Times, October 2011

Democracy and Education

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“How one person’s abilities compare in quantity with those of another is none of the teacher’s business. It is irrelevant to his work. What is required is that every individual shall have opportunities to employ his own powers in activities that have meaning. Mind, individual method, originality (these are convertible terms) signify the quality of purposive or directed action…

Democracy cannot flourish where the chief influences in selecting subject matter of instruction are utilitarian ends narrowly conceived for the masses, and, for the higher education of the few, the traditions of a specialized cultivated class. The notion that the “essentials” of elementary education are the three R’s mechanically treated, is based upon ignorance of the essentials needed for realization of democratic ideals.

Unconsciously it assumes that these ideals are unrealizable; it assumes that in the future, as in the past, getting a livelihood, “making a living,” must signify for most men and women doing things which are not significant, freely chosen, and ennobling to those who do them; doing things which serve ends unrecognized by those engaged in them, carried on under the direction of others for the sake of pecuniary reward…”

~ John Dewey, “Democracy and Education”, 1916

Dare To Dream

A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight,

and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.

~Oscar Wilde

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The Kid (Buddy Mondlock)

©1984 by EMI April Music, Inc./Sparking Gap Music (ASCAP)

I’m the kid who ran away with the circus

Now I’m watering elephants

But I sometimes lie awake in the sawdust

Dreaming I’m in a suit of light

Late at night in the empty big top

I’m all alone on the high wire

“Look he’s working without a net this time.

He’s a real death defy-er!”

I’m the kid who always looked out the windows

Failing tests in geography

But I’ve seen things far beyond just the school yard

Distant shores of exotic lands

There’re the spires of the Turkish Empire

It’s six months since we made land fall

Riding low with the spice of India

Through Gibraltar we’re rich men all!

I’m the kid who thought we’d someday be lovers

Always held out that time would tell

Time was talking — guess I just wasn’t listening

No surprise if you know me well

As we’re walking toward the train station

There’s a whispering rainfall

‘Cross the boulevard you slip your hand in mine

In the distance the train calls

I’m the kid who has this habit of dreaming

Sometimes gets me in trouble too

But the truth is I could no more stop dreaming

Than I could make them all come true

 

Define Your Own Road In Life

“Roadtrip Nation empowers you to define your own road in life instead of traveling down someone else’s.

We encourage you to engage in self-construction, rather than mass production. We encourage you to be proactive and actively participate in defining your future by hitting the road and learning from Leaders who have resisted The Noise of conformity and stayed true to themselves.

Our philosophy is that when we listen to ourselves and are honest about whom we are, and what we love, we are able to seek our own path and contribute to the world with our unique talents.

We believe that by helping others discover their own paths, there will be a significant positive change in the world—the world needs people in tune with who they are and what they care about.

Living a life fueled by authenticity and passion allows people the ability to offer their creativity, ingenuity, and enthusiasm toward their goals. We hope that this, in turn, will build a better local, national, and global community.

The Roadtrip Nation Movement exists to support, empower, and encourage individuals who want to define their own roads in life.”

~ Roadtrip Nation

 

 

Learning Through Play

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“Learning through play with “hands-on, minds-on” approaches (not workbooks) is a powerful way forward. Play gives children space to dream, discover, improvise, and challenge convention. It’s crucial to social, emotional, cognitive and even physical development, helping them grow up “better adjusted, smarter and less stressed.” We know this.

So, where did play go?

Over the last three decades, while schoolchildren K-12 have become better test-takers, they’ve also become less imaginative, according to many experts in education, including Kyung Hee Kim, a professor of education at the College of William and Mary. 

In 2011, she analyzed scores from the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking and found that: “children have become less emotionally expressive, less energetic, less talkative and verbally expressive, less humorous, less imaginative, less unconventional, less lively and passionate, less perceptive, less apt to connect seemingly irrelevant things, less synthesizing, and less likely to see things from a different angle.”…

If we want a better, smarter planet, we need to change the way the next generation children are taught. Allowing more students to grow up without those prosocial, exploratory skills, leaving them unable to reach their potential, would be criminal.

Play can deliver.

What are we waiting for?”

~ John Converse Townshend, “Why Playful Learning Is The Key To Prosperity” Forbes 4/10/14