Thursday, July 29, 2021

The Most Important Academic Skill Of All

The small, landlocked South Asian Kingdom of Bhutan uses an index called "Gross National Happiness" to guide all of its economic and development plans. They take it very seriously and the success or failure of every governmental policy is measured according to this index. One must even submit a GNH impact statement for review before undertaking any new endeavor, public or private, that may impact on the general well-being of the nation.

I just mention that by way of pointing out that there are ways other than money, perhaps even better ways, to assess the real value of an economic activity, just as there are ways other than test scores and grades, perhaps better ways, to assess the real value of education.

For instance, I've never come across a standardized test that measures the ability and willingness to take turns, but everyone knows that it's one of a happy life's most essential skills.

And you're sure not going to get very far if you don't work well with others, but you don't see that on any of the corporate academic assessment matrixes.

Or how about curiosity? I'll take curiosity over knowing the capital of Bhutan any day. (It's Thimphu. I was curious and looked it up.)

And anyone who has studied what it takes to get what you want out of life knows that boldness . . .

. . . and the willingness to take risks . . .

. . . and the ability to fall down . . .

. . . and get back up is far more important than the ability to diagram a sentence or deduce that the answer is "none of the above." What meager things we've come to expect from our schools.

A well-educated person is skeptical and often full of doubt.

She looks at things closely and doesn't necessarily take my word for it.

An educated person tries new things . . .

. . . and plays dramatically with his friends, practicing the complex interpersonal skills that will ultimately get him through life.

When I'm assessing students, I want them to be able to stand on their own two feet.

And to invent new things (at least things that are new to them) . . .

. . . and to feel proud of their accomplishments.

I'm looking for kids who help others . . .

. . . and can work well on their own . . .

. . . concentrating . . .

. . . and persevering . . .

. . . and just being silly.

I want to see that they are full of awe and wonder.

And ultimately, like the King of Bhutan, I'm always looking out for our Gross National Happiness.

Because in this world if we are to be truly happy, we are to be happy together. No one can call himself educated unless he understands this. And therein lies the most important academic skill of all -- the capacity for unmitigated . . .

. . . unbridled joy.


"Teacher Tom, our caped hero of all things righteous in the early childhood world, inspires us to be heroic in our own work with young children, and reminds us that it is the children who are the heroes of the story as they embark on adventures of discovery, wonder, democracy, and play." ~Rusty Keeler
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