Maybe they’re teaching the wrong things

Europe’s Record Youth Unemployment (via Instapundit). Money quote:

But Europe’s youth unemployment is strange, because we’ve never seen a generation *this educated* also be this unemployed.

Update: I recommend reading Mike’s comment to this post. Here is an excerpt:

…education and intelligence are NOT the leading predictors of success.

More reliable predictors of success are the non-cognitive factors delayed gratification (self-control) and perseverance (willpower).

Maybe, that’s what they should be teaching.

9 thoughts on “Maybe they’re teaching the wrong things

  1. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but education and intelligence are NOT the leading predictors of success. While they may limit one’s capacity, we must also be aware that formal education is not the only type of education. Indeed, I submit that unless one is self-motivated to learn, formal education – given its cost – is a waste of time and money. What passes for education in our schools today does not prepare one for success. Unfortunately, the government has not only deprived these kids of a real education, they have done everything they can to remove the hardships that are necessary for one to develop the requisite skills for dealing with adult problems. Furthermore, by instituting a minimum wage, they have made it unprofitable for employers to provide the on-the-job education and training needed to make up for what the schools failed to provide.

    More reliable predictors of success are the non-cognitive factors delayed gratification (self-control) and perseverance (willpower).

    Unfortunately, our government intelligentsia think that they have the answer to every problem (or non-problem) and that it involves more and bigger government. If formal education is the solution, it’s easy for them to demand more dollars to throw down the the public education rathole that transfers wealth to their NEA cronies and indoctrinates children in their liberal agenda of multiculturalism, relativism and socialism – but does very little to actually educate kids or to develop successful, productive citizens.

    Indeed, the bleeding heart crowd has done much over the last several decades to discourage the development of the aforementioned non-cognitive factors in children. When everybody’s a winner, what incentive is there for any kid to delay the fun stuff (like watching TV) and study? And while nobody likes a bully, the anti-bullying laws, anti-hate speech rules, etc. have removed some of the primary hardships that schoolchildren used to learn to overcome as they developed willpower and courage. Bullies typically get their due in the end and in the mean time they serve a useful function – preparing kids to deal with bullies (the literal and figurative ones) they will deal with throughout their adult lives. Removing hardships from a child’s life only seems to make life easier. Eventually, he will face obstacles and if he hasn’t developed the tools to overcome these hurdles, he’ll fail to overcome them.

    Mature, thoughtful adults will realize that the problems of childhood were small in comparison to those we face as adults. Just as we don’t expect an Olympic weightlifter to show up at competition and hoist a world record lift, we shouldn’t expect young adults to be able to deal with adult problems unless they developed their problem handling abilities by facing smaller child size problems first.

    And God forbid some young adult would have endure poor living conditions – or even survive without a cell phone – simply because they earned a low wage. We need our well-meaning bleeding hearts to step in and institute a minimum wage so that these untrained, low productivity types can demand more money – even if it means the jobs disappear because their minimum wage exceeds what they are able to produce. But the youth are unable to deal with these adult hardships because they have never learned to deal with kiddie hardships.

    Solution: Get the freakin’ government out of our lives! Sure, there will be some short term hardships, but people will be forced to deal with them and will adapt (as there will be no government handout option). Just looking at the government waste revealed in the last few weeks – especially the costly IRS junkets, the hidden “man caves” at some EPA warehouses, etc. – is it any wonder that private citizens (those not employed by the government) have little or no money to waste on youth who may have a great QUANTITY of education, but little in the way of a QUALITY education. Let me go further. “Government waste” doesn’t adequately describe what has actually been happening with these government employees. A better term is “wealth transfer” or “theft”. Your and my tax dollars – the money we go out and bust our butts to earn – has been doled out to various agencies and the government employees that “work” at these agencies have been using the funds for lavish parties and gifts and to furnish recreation rooms at work where they can watch TV or workout (all while they are supposedly working). Our government has gotten too big to prevent corruption and outright fraudulent use of our money. It cost has far exceeded its benefit. Even the president has conceded that he doesn’t know what’s going on in any of the departments or agencies – asked about Benghazi, the IRS, the DOJ or any other area where problems have been discovered and he admits that he had no idea.

  2. Hi Seth – John Stossel had two men on his show tonight arguing the pros and cons of hate crime laws. This is yet another example of government meddling that’s not only ineffective (in terms of solving the “problem” it aims to address), but harmful (in terms of creating other difficulties). Anyone with a lick of sense knows two things: (1) This will not improve the problem it aims to correct – that some people hate other people and with no good reason. If anything, it will fuel the flames of resentment of the favored victims (and we know that the government will tend to label some groups as haters and some groups as victims). (2) You can’t legislate that people like one another. People have “hated” (or at least held prejudices against) other people – especially those who don’t look or talk or act like them – since the beginning of time. Heck, even different species seem to have an aversion for each other. Supposing that you can legislate this away is like trying to demand that cats bark. When laws or rules like this are applied at the school level, what we get are kids who grow up not learning how to deal (in a civil way) with people they can’t stand or those who can’t stand them.

  3. How would you structure an educational program to include delayed gratification (self-control) and perseverance (willpower)?

    That is to say, how would you instill these qualities in the absence of hardship and bullies? Let’s assume a school like I went to as a kid (private school, all the kids were wealthy) wanted to teach these two qualities (self control and willpower), how could they go about it?

    Would it appear as academic material? Part of physical education and sports? Part of art and music? Or something else?

    • Hi Wally — I think mentioning the virtues and outcomes of those qualities would be a good first step. We seem to hear a lot about the virtues of going to college, so why not about the virtues of self-control and delayed gratification?

      It seems like we’ve come to a point where expecting one to display those qualities is frowned upon. Too hot, too hard. Politically incorrect.

      One lesson: Teach that when lenders required 20% down and a good job history before giving a loan that wasn’t to screen out certain races, but rather to identify people who had demonstrated these qualities in order build a good credit history, live within their means and save. Rather than lowering standards for people who haven’t demonstrated these qualities we should encourage people to demonstrate these qualities to earn their right to get a home loan through merit.

      Next would be incorporating and reinforcing these more in daily activities. Some public schools find it easier to graduate troublemakers and flunkies than kick them out and hold them back and expect them to put the work in. The expectation is that they get an education, not matter what.

      You may not have seen that at a private school, where the parents are paying and the school has more leeway to toss out troublemakers and the school has an academic reputation to uphold. But, public schools struggle with it. If they kick someone out, they may face a lawsuit or worse, the wrath of bureaucratic administrators who will side with clueless parents over their own people.

      So, simply better rewarding reinforcing those qualities in school is another practical step. You earn your grades by putting up the video game and doing your homework.

  4. Hi Wally – I’ll try to post more on this later, but I would include the “hardship” component in both academics and sports/physical training, which I would make mandatory.

    Now, in regards to bullies, as I said before, nobody likes a bully and bullies need to be taught a lesson as well. However, when the government gets involved, things get blown out of proportion. As an example, look into what the Dept of Justice and Office of Civil Rights have suggested (via their letter to U Montana) as a national policy regarding sexual harassment – Gene Volokh has a nice outline here: Essentially, a student is guilty of sexual harassment if he/she makes someone uncomfortable by his/her words or actions even if a reasonable person would not consider the behavior discomforting or wrong. Do we expect better of them in the case of bullying? Instead of some federally mandated draconian rules to deal with bullying, I would let the school administration handle things as they judged best. I’m sure – especially in a private school setting or a public school with vouchers setting – administrators would deal appropriately with the real bullies and encourage “crybabies” (kids who are taunted with “normal” kids insults, etc. and don’t deal with it in an “appropriate” manner) to “grow a pair”. Sorry to be so blunt, but I think I’ve conveyed the general idea!

    Academically, I would institute a core curriculum (not the “common core” the govt is pushing). The idea is that everybody MASTERS the basics – the ability to comprehend the spoken and written word and to express oneself verbally and on paper, mathematical abilities sufficient to handle one’s daily affairs (+,-,x,/ as well as word problems and fractions) and understand national matters (statistics) – as well as what used to be called “civics” e.g how and why our system of government works (I would probably add some economics here as well), basic sciences (biology, chemistry, physics), proficiency in a foreign language (that you didn’t already know), and history. I would also likely add some type of fine arts requirement as well. There’s something there to challenge everyone, i.e. nobody skips physics because they’re not math types and the “math types” are forced to take humanities. Oh yeah, and everyone takes the same track – no honors and dummies courses (everyone gets the honors course!)

    On the physical side, you compete in a sport or you enroll in rigorous PE. As far as sports, at least one sport you do must be an individual sport (I would favor gymnastics, wrestling, boxing) so that you can’t blame or hide behind your teammates. The PE would be rigorous, varied and challenging – sound like CF?

    I know that doesn’t address the details of how I would use these tools to foster willpower and self-control. I’ll try to add more later.

    See “An Education for Our Time” by Josiah Bunting for further ideas.

  5. Thanks for the replies. Insightful comments.

    “I know that doesn’t address the details of how I would use these tools to foster willpower and self-control. I’ll try to add more later.”

    Excellent. I look forward to reading more and I put the Bunting book on my library hold list.

  6. Hi Wally – Just a brief comment while I give this a little more thought – I think the whole process needs to start quite early (earlier than most people would imagine). This probably needs to be a “from the moment of birth” process rather than one where parents realize that their teenager has problems and they look for a school to deal with them. As a trainer, I’m sure you recognize that it’s more difficult to fix poor motor patterns that have been learned incorrectly and reinforced with years of reinforcing these incorrect patterns than to start with a beginner and develop proper patterns from the start. As a new grandparent, I’m trying to look at it from the standpoint of what advice would I give my kids regarding raising their own children given my experience and observations and what I have read. Briefly, I don’t think we (as parents) should be as detached as we imagine the Spartans were to their kids. Rather, the child needs to feel that there is someone who loves and accepts him unconditionally. However, that doesn’t mean that the parent says it’s OK to give up at a task. Rather, it’s OK to fail at a task as long as you keep getting back up and giving it your best effort, i.e. we don’t hate you for failing. Furthermore, because we love you, we will place hardships in your path (or at least we will let you deal with them rather than doing that for you) just as the Spartans placed hardships in front of their kids – and the reason is that by learning to overcome kid size problems, you will develop the skills to deal with adult size problems.

    OK, Tangent Time: Maybe some of the crazy crap we have seen in the past few decades, e.g. “going postal”, school shootings, workplace shootings, etc. is due (at least partially) to adults not being able to deal appropriately with adult problems/obstacles because they never developed these skills as children. As kids, they were shielded by parents and a society that increasingly protected them from normal childhood “hardships” such as: failing in school (social promotions), the “stigma” of being below average at something, e.g. not being the winner (the self-esteem movement, everyone’s a winner and gets a trophy), bullies, etc. Perhaps letting kids learn to deal with these problems – while giving them advice and encouragement – would have given them the skills to deal with the bigger problems of life in an appropriate manner rather than decompensating and resorting to “counterproductive” outbursts of violence. Just a thought, but it seems that a common thread from many or all of these events has been a problem or problems that the attacker couldn’t deal with in an acceptable manner.

    OK, maybe I had too much caffeine and that wasn’t so brief……..time to go workout.

    Have a great day, guys!

    • Funny…just this weekend I was working with my kid to get him used to starting and stopping on his new, bigger bike and we were having the ‘not mad for falling, but disappointed for giving up so easily’ conversation. But, after he cooled off a little, he kept giving it tries and was mastering it.


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