A newly published book called “How Children Succeed” shines a light on the inadequacies of traditional education. Paul Tough, a journalist for The New York Times, argues that the qualities that matter most in today’s world have more to do with character and skills like perseverance, curiosity, optimism, and self-control. He asserts that IQ is less predictive of success than these harder to measure traits and that students would thrive more in life if schools focused more on teaching character than strictly on content.
This belief and his findings correlate with a research project Performance Works recently completed focusing on gaps in traditional education as perceived by educators throughout the Southwestern United States. The nearly unanimous response of educators to the question “If you had a magic wand and could offer one more thing to students, what would it be?” was character education and leadership development. Administrators and teachers alike cited the importance of empowering students to find their voice. The skills most commonly highlighted as needing attention were problem solving, collaboration, communication and critical analysis.
As parents, citizens and human beings, these findings touch us deeply and spur us to action. Kids need and deserve a “code to live by.” Educators are consumed with test scores and standards. They don’t have the energy, time or resources to tackle these less-tangible, harder-to-measure skills. It’s not clear that all parents are equipped to teach those traits either and our personal belief is that without them, our kids will fail. We’re bringing children into a complex world of change — cultural, technological, economic and environmental — and they deserve to feel empowered and need to be resilient.
So, it is with a profound sense of responsibility and hope that we decided to launch Community Works. Community Works is a leadership development and character education program aimed at middle and high school students and our mission is to build the next generation of student leaders. The curriculum is designed to address core elements of character including problem solving, relationship building, effective communication, collaboration and conflict resolution through workshops and hands on projects.
We are piloting the program in Los Angeles and would love to hear your thoughts about what matters most when it comes to educating the next generation. Help us create a program to help our kids succeed.