There has been a lot of talks and evidence presented lately concerning our young people’s ability to survive and recover from a personal crisis. With youth suicide reaching high levels in some countries during, and since, the Covid 19 crisis there has been an outcry as to why this young generation doesn’t seem to be coping.
My view is that the lazy production line mentality of governments towards education is depriving many young people of basic societal survival skills, leaving many to languish on the parameters of economic stability and a sound future.
Here in Australia, at least in the state of New South Wales, we seem to have adopted the notion that turning up represents success. I often joke that a student could burn the school to the ground in year nine and still graduate through into year ten!
The constant stream of students I encounter who have left school with unreadable writing, minimal discernible reading comprehension skills and few communications skills seems to get worse every year.
What has the solution been that authorities have implemented? They have given teachers more paperwork to do! The system changes hold teachers more accountable for their student’s grades, but also force teachers to become untrained parents to some students and psycho-analysts for others.
The reality is that many young people may have never been held accountable for what they can reasonably manage themselves and have progress demanded of them. Instead, the students have been pushed along the assembly line, which is not fair on them in the long term and decreases their resilience skills substantially.
Failure: an essential part of success!
I have a fair amount of resilience. I know this is because I failed and failed a lot! Many young people who come to us in the trades have never failed anything ….and never passed anything either.
A school leader once told me that to hold them back a year would cause great psychological damage. Just wait till they get fired…. because of their lack of ability! And have no understanding of how to take failure! How do they cope then, when the stakes are higher and the consequences are much more debilitating?
This opinion is by no means a judgement on teachers or principals. I judge harshly a system that almost forbids expulsion, lacks the right to discipline and is under constant surveillance by those who have a lot of theories but little class experience.
Naturally, a leaning towards curiosity and self-discovery is a direction we should go but always within the parameters and basic assumption of reasonable numeracy, written and communication skills.
It is clear that I personally, to my regret, as with a lot of my generation, have ‘over loved’ our kids and let them down by never letting them learn to handle heartache and failure; never letting them build the muscle it takes to get over hard knocks and stress. In a time when we emphasise the need to physically work out against resistance to stay physically fit, we have failed to do the same with taking on resistance that builds character muscles. The Covid19 crisis has shown this up in bright lights.
While encouragement and security should be given liberally to every child, we need to stop giving prizes for attendance and participation. The real world does not pay or promote on turning up. It employs on productivity and outcomes.
I have come to believe that nothing is wasted. It is either a step forward or a lesson on how to or not to step forward. Most of our errors have not cost anyone life or limb and are mostly sources of the ‘cringe factor’ as we look upon our bruised egos and severely smashed pride.
‘Our kids can often be hurt, but should never be harmed’, when we cross their will they feel hurt but that is not harmful but actually good for them. Past neurological experiments testing resilience and self-control have shown the difference in outcomes for people in later life who have struggled and have delayed gratification.
We all see people who want a quick easy way to get to the goal. What really works is a sort of ‘compounding interest’ combined with wisdom over time. This applies not only to money but also to human character. There are no shortcuts to anywhere worth going.
My solution is firstly, to put educators in charge of education! Accountants, beaurocrats and all the other people are there to only support the educational vision, not to lead it! The teachers always should lead with a good neuro-educational understanding of learning.
Secondly, as in other countries, provide the framework for students to repeat and have a genuine concern of repeating and not meeting the standard.
Thirdly restore the dignity of teachers to an honoured level in pay and public perception.
Lastly: Give real support to those who don’t make the grade, and mentor and walk with them as true guides with whom they have confidence that their best interests are being addressed.
I wonder if the fact that our youth are bored and depressed is because we didn’t ask enough of them and not too much of them?
Thanks for reading! I’d love you to share your thoughts in the comment space below!
Dave is an Adult Educator, Speaker and Youth leader living in Western Sydney, Australia. He has Diplomas in Business and Training, a Bachelors Degree in Adult Education, Vocational and Workplace Training and a Masters of Education with a major in Career Development. He has lived with Tourette’s Syndrome, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Anxiety Disorders since an early age, you can read his story online. He is married with 6 children. He is a passionate coach and mentor to young people especially in the vocational guidance and career development areas. Dave is a professional member of the Career Development Association of Australia and has authored a course on Living with Tourette’s which you can study and purchase online through his website – www.davebrebner.com.