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What are we preparing our kids for?

Dan asks what to do with a kid who has shown up only one out of 5 days, but has mastered the material to a C+ level.

The kicker is that this kid is in a remedial class.

It seems obvious what’s happened here: the kid is bright but unmotivated. Previous teachers took the lack of motivation as dullness, and marked him down enough to place him into remedial classes. This only exacerbated the problem – already knowing everything that is being taught, he’s going to be even more bored.

Dan seems to imply that the problem is obvious. It might be to him, but I haven’t seen it come out in the comments [EDIT: Since I composed this post, some of these points have indeed come out, but not with ay resolution].

What are we preparing our kids for?

I (like, i think, a lot of other teachers) am trying to give my kids the information they need to know in order to learn the next years worth of material.

I’m not sure that’s enough. Dan’s story isn’t unique, though it is more stark than most. Every year I’ve taught I’ve had remedial classes, and in every one of those classes has been someone who gets the material easily, but doesn’t do the work or has behavior issues or some other reason for not getting that grade.

Is knowing the material enough to guarantee success after they leave the environment of the classroom?

Trying to motivate kids by comparing their education to a job is doomed to failure – they’ll immediately point out the flaw in the analogy: they aren’t getting paid.

Is money enough to give them a work ethic? Will they even know what an acceptable work ethic is? Can they succeed in the real world without that work ethic1? Can we teach them that in an environment that is completely unlike a real world work environment? Is the knowledge they’ve gotten in my class going to contribute to their success?

I don’t know.

I do know that every year I try to adjust – either more towards the knowledge, or more to the real world consequences for effort2. And every year I’m sure that I’m leaving something uncovered.

1 There are jobs where you get paid to deliver a final product, regardless of how much time or when you spend the time to create it. Unfortunately, those jobs tend to require better than C+ level work, and getting those jobs tend to require proving your competence in a more traditional arena first3. I don’t see a lot of success for those kids in the future.

2 In a lot of ways, the real world just cares about results, not effort. But not always: who are you more likely to complain to a manager about – a cashier who struggles with the technology and process to ring up an order in 3 minutes, or the cashier who spends 2 minutes talking to their friend on a phone, and then rings everything up in one minute?

3 Either that, or it requires connections and nepotism. My kids aren’t going to get that.