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Race to Nowhere

Ohanian Comment: I've read this list several times. They speak to what's wrong with our enterprise. I started to say that the greatest of these skills is the ability to say "No." But I suspect this ability grows out of the development of a number of the other critical skills listed here.

Looking at numbers 12 and 13, I'm happy to report that students in my own village attend a regional high school that requires community service. I just signed the log of a terrific teen who used half his day off from school to help my cooking team prepare a meal at the Senior Center. I know his work was good for us, and I like to think it was good for him too.

I would add one thing missing from the list. I fear that today one can graduate from high school without ever having experience joy in 13 years of schooling.

by Matt Lintner

Management guru Peter Drucker famously said, "What gets measured gets managed." But what if we're measuring the wrong things? Consider the following: you can graduate from high school with straight A's without ever having

1. Searched for answers to unknown questions.

2. Budgeted your own time.

3. Discovered what most interests you.

4. Initiated a project requiring sustained commitment.

5. Taken risks or experienced failure.

6. Led a team in the pursuit of a worthy goal.

7. Practiced consensus building or the messiness of compromise.

8. Asserted yourself, even if it meant challenging authority.

9. Built something of value.

10. Created art that speaks to the soul.

11. Explored the natural world.

12. Interacted with people outside your age group.

13. Volunteered substantively in your community.

14. Apprenticed in fields of your choosing.

15. Started a business.

16. Traveled and gathered perspectives outside your comfort zone.

17. Acquired practical skills like saving and investing, handling tools, programming, growing food. . .

Perhaps most tellingly, you never learned to say No.

America can continue down the path of national standards, high stakes testing, longer school days, expanded calendar, merit pay, and all the rest -- but none of it will cure what ills us if we're not focused on what truly matters.

Matt Lintner is a teacher in Fairfax County Virginia.

— Matt Lintner




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