Are we educating them for the right goals?

My husband, a boat nut, read an article recently by another boat nut with a subscription wooden boat oriented website. Steve Stone’s website, Off Center Harbor, has over 800 videos and articles about boat handling, repairs, maintenance, boat building, and more.

He wrote an article in 2015 about his concern that he was not preparing his children for success in life. He focused on his daughter who was 14 years old and choosing a high school. She was a strong candidate for a top-tier high school but he had nagging doubts about whether or not he and his wife were focused on the right goals. He wondered if the world he and his wife were preparing their kids for – which is consumer-driven – will exist when they are in the prime of their lives, 20-25 years from now.

Steve Stone says:

“I feel like we’re rushing our kids to
the front of the line for an unhappy life.”

Reading his thoughtful article raised many issues for me and those with whom I discussed it, so I decided that many of our readers might also be interested. He has isolated three shifts in the world in the past thirty years that he feels have changed the environment in which our children will live their adult lives.

  • The U.S. has lost ground in the ability to provide high-quality education to its citizens. The U.S. no longer ranks in the top 25 countries in performance on standardized tests for math and science. That’s shocking! A 2015 study by the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) ranked the educational systems of 76 countries for kids aged 15 in math and science. Pix
  • If our current level of purchasing and consumption comes to a screeching halt due to the earth’s limited resources, Mr. Stone reasons that there will be “millions fewer jobs” and many more people competing for the remaining jobs. He says “What this means is that for the first time, children graduating from college will be competing not only with other bright young adults from the U.S., but also from 27 other countries around the world.” Our children might need different skills.  He feels it’s his job to give his children those special skills. He just needs to figure out what those might be.
  • Is the narrowing of schools’ curricula depriving our students of important life lessons? For example, civics is no longer taught in most elementary schools, nor is shop, and many schools have lost their art and music programs. Most of what is taught is aimed at the standardized tests that establish rankings. Our children are not being exposed to the wide range of skills they once were.

Mr. Stone feels that his job as a parent is to try and develop his children’s inherent interests and passions, which is how they will find satisfaction and meaning in their adult lives. He aims to encourage his children to find opportunities that will excite them. He urges them to try different experiences and jobs every summer, and explore anything that interests them. He hopes that this will enable them to grow up to find occupations that allow them to do the things they truly enjoy.

One of our children took a gap year before college and it was tremendously beneficial for her. She was a young woman with many interests and the gap year allowed her to explore some of them, learn a language and work in an area she hadn’t experienced before. She learned important life skills and was better prepared for college. With another of our children we encouraged her to take a different type of summer job every summer of high school and college to experience a variety of job skills and environments. By the end of college she had ruled out almost every occupation there was!

I don’t have any surefire remedies or parenting advice, but I found Mr. Stone’s concerns thought provoking and useful.

Click here to read the article by Mr. Stone.