Saturday, October 13, 2012

Firecrackers and Learning - Creating the Essential Spark

When I was a kid, I always looked forward to the yearly Independence Day celebration because it meant that we would enjoy an outstanding fireworks show. My young friends and I were thrilled by the Sparklers, Snaps, Flowers, Fountains, and Atomic Whammies, as each firework contributed to a diverse, beautiful display.

However, sometimes the fireworks would not perform their functions and would simply lie dormant. My friends and I called these lifeless firecrackers "duds." Although they contained within them the elements that could produce a brilliant flash of light, the flame never reached the necessary fuel source. These duds, therefore, never contributed to the show.

Fireworks and Education
Like the firework duds that never received their spark, I wonder whether our general approach to education is also missing a crucial component. We seem to spend a lot of time giving our students knowledge and skills that they can use professionally. Like the fuel in the fireworks, these abilities are absolutely vital, but too often it seems that we do not provide our students with the spark-like qualities and characteristics like a positive attitude, honesty, and a strong work ethic. Like a firework dud, we sometimes seem to produce citizens who have some skills and knowledge but lack the excitement and work ethic required to contribute to our society in meaningful ways. Just like an overweight nutritionist, many individuals possess useful knowledge and skills but lack the motivation or work capacity to execute use that knowledge.

We Must Empower Our Students
I assert that if our students do not have foundational characteristics and habits such as hard work, honesty, discipline, positive attitudes, and service, then they they will never be able to achieve personal success and contribute to society in meaningful ways. These characteristics are a foundation upon which all the other skills are built. People can have the skills, but if they choose not to use the skills, then our potential lies dormant.

How do we teach someone to obtain these characteristics? How do we train students to do what is difficult? People ultimately have the power choose how they will act, but I believe that parents, teachers, religious leaders and friends must model and teach the characteristics, guiding their students in acquiring and enacting the characteristics. We must show students how to take responsibility for their lives so that they can live meaningful lives as productive, contributing citizens. We can show our students how to light their own fires, provide light and excitement to people around them, and contribute to society in beautiful, meaningful ways.

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