In Chapter 5, Wagner discusses how many business leaders and educators are worried about the decline of the work ethic of our youth. Employers are commenting that “the work ethic is not as strong as it was five years ago” and that there is much more jobbing hopping and attendance issues (and parents even call in excuses for their kids if they miss work). Teachers have said young people today don’t seem to have respect for authority; that many of them are growing up kind of spoiled and need more discipline in their lives. That said, Wagner also offers a counter to that perspective. While the majority seems to believe there’s a failure of work ethic among young Americans, some disagree with this point of view stating, “the people making up the new workforce are quite different from more senior employees. They don’t have less of a work ethic. They have a different work ethic.” I tend to agree with the latter.
Young people today are growing up tethered to the Internet, and we are only beginning to see the full impact of this digital era on our lives; it affects everything -how we learn, work and play. So naturally, the younger generation is going to be motivated very differently than previous generations. They have new learning styles related to the desire to multitask and to be constantly connected. As a result, I definitely think this calls for some reevaluating and understanding on our part as educators, employers and parents in order to bridge the gap and inspire motivation.
Chapter 6: Closing the Gap: Schools That Work (an exploration of three alternative schools: High Tech High, the Met, & Francis Parker)
All three alternative schools have their appeals. I particularly resonate with the Met School director Elliot Washor’s view “instead of having students take classes and maybe eventually figuring out what their interests are, we start with helping every student to find their interest and then build a learning plan around it.” Finland does something similar with their educational model in that after students finish their nine-year basic education in a comprehensive school, students at the age of 16 may choose their secondary education according to their own interests. They can choose to continue on the academic track or they can opt for a vocational track. It becomes a very personalized experience while at the same time diversifying the skill sets of our future leaders in society.
I believe that true learning takes place when students become active participants in their own education. For that to happen, they need to have a personal interest. Giving students the opportunity to explore outside experiences in conjunction with their foundational academic content allows them to not only make applicable connections but to start to get a sense of where their strengths and interests lie. Finding a niche in a particular trade and pursuing it with passion would be a great alternative to pushing a half-interest student toward a four-year college only to have them graduate into a market that is already saturated with bachelor degrees. I would definitely enjoy working at a school with a strong belief in personalized learning.