Naturally, Adults Are Trying to Stop Them

This news article published yesterday:

Teenagers are running for governor in Kansas. Adults are trying to stop them

In a state where the youth voting rate is even worse than the dismal national average, more than half a dozen Kansas teens are running for statewide office in 2018 — a sort of viral movement against apathy that could, in theory, make a high school student governor.

Naturally, adults are trying to stop it.

Naturally. Because that’s what adults do. Squash the ideas of our youth that do not fall in line with the status quo.

George Couros,  in a presentation to parents, asked if any of their children want to be YouTubers when they grow up. As was expected, a few people made an audible scoff at the idea. And yet, people are doing it. In 2017, the average salary of the top 10 YouTubers was over $10 million a year. Entrepreneurial people who saw an avenue to create content that expresses their creativity have turned an outlet in to a source of income.

And now, teenagers in Kansas, after finding a loophole in the Kansas state laws, are running for Governor. Not because they want to make a mockery of the state, but because they know they have a voice worth hearing. Jack Bergeson, a 17 year old Junior,  explained his reasons for running in written testimony to the state legislature: “Allow me to clear up a misconception: I am not running for governor as a stunt, or a gag. I am running for governor because of the minimum wage worker that has to work three jobs just to get by. I am running because our education system has been lagging behind other states. I am running to get money out of politics. But most importantly, I am running to get as many people involved in politics as possible.”

Jack, and others like him, are looking for ways to make their voice heard. To fight against apathy. To make a difference. They are tired of living within the confines we have placed upon them by our systems, structures, and beliefs. They are ready to start building their own. And as educators, it is our moral duty to equip them with the skills they need to do so. What is the point of teaching facts, history, math, science, etc if they are not also taught how to create new knowledge, new experiences, new ideas and amplify those to the world?

desire-path-usability-600x600I agree with George when he says that we should be helping students find their path. There should be nothing “natural” about blocking their way. Especially not in education.

One day, I hope articles like this one will read: Naturally, adults are trying to help them pave the way.

Bringing Industry to the Classroom

“Our two most precious commodities are our children and water.”
Ronald Fay, Retired Hydrologist and Industry Expert honoree
Michael DiTullo, Industrial Designer

Last night, our school board recognized the contributions of the industry experts who have given their time and expertise to inspire our students to change the world. Each of the individuals honored has made a tangible difference in the educational experience of our students. We often talk about making school relevant, engaging, and meaningful, but when you’re studying the human body and two medical students from UCSD are providing you with information and then giving feedback on your human body system adaptation prototype, relevant is the name of the game. When students are using design thinking to develop a better student chair and an industrial designer talks with the class about his own designs, and the importance of being human-centered, engagement is at an all-time high. And when 3rd graders studying the local lagoon to solve environmental problems it faces have an opportunity to participate in hands-on learning with a USGS Hydrologist to determine salinity levels, they are able to make meaningful connections to the science they study and the local problems in their community.

18 industry experts were honored last night. 18 individuals who see that the future

Chris Delehanty, Tech Director, Ronald Fay, Retired USGS Hydrologist, & me

success of our community, our country, resides in the students we teach today. 18 experts who listened to the ideas of children, and honored those ideas, and inspired them to keep ideating. 18 experts who showed students that their voices are heard, and their ideas are meaningful, and their learning is important. To each of them, and all the others that will be joining this list, I thank you.

To learn about all the experts honored, please read our presentation.
(This blog post was also posted on our district Design Thinking website)
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Airplane Simulation

Career Pathways at All Grades

On Wednesday, I had the privilege of attending the OC Career Pathways Showcase at the Marconi Automotive Museum. Who can turn down an opportunity to see vintage vehicles, talk to brilliant students, and listen to top executives from SpaceX and Virgin Orbit? Not me!

I have to admit – the programs these students had access to, both in high school and community college (and a couple junior highs) was amazing. I kept thinking, “What would my adult life had looked like if I had been exposed to these hands-on STEM programs when I was 14 years old?” Students displayed projects completed in the areas of engineering; computer science; biotechnology; fabrication; robotics; and more. One student told me he had almost completed his private pilot’s license. Another discussed designing a robotic, prosthetic arm for a peer. Community College partners displayed their pathways to degrees and technical certificates within those fields, and their internship opportunities for the students present.

During this showcase, Gwynne Shotwell, COO and President of SpaceX, along with Tim Buzza, Vice President of Launch for Virgin Orbit, discussed their career pathways. Gwynne stressed the importance of project-based learning so that students “apply what they learn” and Tim shared the moment he switched from being concerned more about his grades in college to focusing on mastering the content being taught. When a student asked them both about how they deal with failure, Gwynne pointed out that people tend to learn more from failure than success, because it requires adaptation and another attempt. Tim expanded on that, reminding students that “failure means you put yourself out there more than most people would” and should not be a sign of defeat.

In this entire conversation, however, I realized that one voice was missing, and that was the voice of the elementary student. If we are to truly prepare students for the opportunities these students are accessing, we need to start from day one in kindergarten. Here’s why:

Linda Gottfredson (2002) describes how career choice in young people develops through a process of circumscription and compromise. During circumscription, which begins at ages 3-5, students rule out unacceptable options based on their perceived fit with the child’s self-concept. Between ages 3-5, children understand that adults have roles in the world, and that they, too, will one day have a role. By age 8, children start to assign job roles to particular sexes. If a job doesn’t align with their gender, it becomes unacceptable. By age 13, children have seen more job types and start to categorize them by income, education level, lifestyle, etc. in addition to sex type. They may exclude jobs that require a lot of education because they don’t have college role models in their family, or they may portray a job as being too much manual labor. Starting at age 14, children begin the conscious process of choosing jobs that align with their interests and perceived abilities.

After excluding so many options during the circumscription stage, children then being compromising, which involves “sacrificing roles they see as more compatible with their self-concept in favour of those that are perceived to be more easily accessible” (Winter, nd). Their lack of knowledge about the job, their abilities, and the future of the field begins to compromise their career choices.

Crazy to think this huge life decision… picking a career … starts to flesh itself out before a child even enters school. And for most, the decision is molded with no active modeling or involvement by adults until high school, if the child is lucky enough to have a pathway option, or upon graduation, when facing the daunting prospect of self reliance.

So what can we do to open those doors that students may be subconsciously closing at such an early age? How do we bring elementary education to the table with secondary and post-secondary education so that these amazing experiences aren’t limited to only some students? In our district, we’re bridging that divide through design thinking challenges that include industry experts; field trips that focus on the world of work community; and time for students to explore passion projects and Genius Hour. I’m hopeful that we’ll soon incorporate Gallop strengths-finder tools and local mentorships as well, both with community industry leaders and high school pathways programs. What are you doing?

Article References:

Circumscription and Compromise by The Careers Group

Gottfredson, L.S. (2002). Gottfredson’s theory of circumscription, compromise, and self creation. In D. Brown (Ed.), Career Choice and
Development (4th ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, pp. 85–148.

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