Tag Archives: students

Intelligent Solutions to School Bus Safety

By Jason Menard

When it comes to school bus safety, who truly needs to smarten up: the school bus designers or those who share the road with these yellow behemoths?

The question comes up again in light of the horrific accident in Huntsville, Alabama, which saw three teenaged girls killed and 30 other high schoolers injured when a school bus was involved in an accident that sent it through the guardrail of an overpass. The bus plummeted 30 feet to the ground, landing nose first.

Of course, nobody on that bus was wearing a seat belt, because as we all know most school buses aren’t outfitted with restraining devices. But would seat belts really help? Our knee-jerk reaction, cemented in the fact that the mantra of wearing a seat belt saves lives has been driven into our skulls, is yes. However, according to the Ministry of Transportation – Ontario, seat belts may in fact do more harm than good – and the buses’ design alone makes them safe for students.

School buses are designed to be compartmentalized, essentially creating little pockets of safety for each child. By installing well-anchored seats with higher backs that are filled with energy-absorbing material and placed closer together, those who have engineered the school buses have done what they can to promote safety for its occupants.

Conversely, putting restraining devices, such as seat belts, into a school bus may cause even more problems. As any parent knows, as children grow, their belt requirements change. In a school bus environment, it’s nearly impossible – and at the very least excessively impractical – to ensure that all seat belts are properly adjusted to the size and weight of a constantly changing series of seat occupants.

A poorly fitted seat belt can cause serious injuries in the event of an accident. And would that make the bus driver liable for any injuries caused by a child’s inability to properly adjust his or her restraining device? Should we expect our children to be able to handle this responsibility on their own?

Too many parents focus on the lack of a seat belt and look at that as a negligent act. They don’t look at the engineering and design aspects that have been implemented to compensate for the lack of a restraining device. In the end, save for any future adjustments and improvements to the design of the bus, it would seem that our children’s safety has been well accounted for. As hard as it may for us inundated with the importance of seat belts throughout our lives, the lack of seat belts in a school bus seems to be the right choice.

So if we can’t improve bus safety on the buses, then we have to look elsewhere for improvements. Specifically, instead of making the buses safer for the road, we have to make the road safer for the buses – and our children.

There are still times when we see people passing stopped school buses, either trying to beat the extension of the stop arm, or in complete defiance of it. There are still drivers who race through school zones at speeds well in excess of the posted speed limits. And there are still those motorists who choose to drive aggressively and erratically through our city streets.

The buses aren’t the problem. We are.

But what can be done? On a couple of occasions I’ve called police to report someone blowing past a stopped bus with its lights flashing. And while the dispatch person has been pleasant, the fact is that the police don’t have the man power to chase after every person who ignores not just the law, but basic common sense.

In fact, the greatest risk to our children doesn’t come while they’re on the bus, it comes as they’re getting off. And no belt in the world is going to protect them from that danger.

Currently there’s a national study looking at the issue of seat belts on school buses. The Ontario government has indicated that it will take the findings into consideration for the future. But chances are the status quo will be upheld.

In the end, assuring the safety of our school-aged children isn’t one that’s the domain of engineering. And no fabric strap or metal buckle will ever replace common sense as a deterrent for accidents.

Slow down. Watch for kids. And try to avoid the giant yellow vehicle in front of you. Then the whole point about seat belts becomes moot. After all, the best way to ensure the effectiveness of safety devices and design is to make sure they’re never called into use.

Inside the bus isn’t where the problem lies. Therefore, the burden falls squarely on our shoulders. If we drive safer, then maybe tragedies like the one in Huntsville can be avoided.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Revisiting 100 Years of Caring

By Jason Menard

It’s been 100 years in the making – and, for one night, a group of people are going to try to prove that you can go home again. And while news of a reunion for a student newspaper may not set the world on fire, our experience at that publication was what sparked passions in countless people.

It is without hyperbole that I can say some of the brightest lights in Canadian journalism will descend on The Wave today in celebration of the 100 th anniversary of The Gazette, the daily student newspaper of the University of Western Ontario. But beyond the journalistic glitterati – a significant component of Macleans and a good number of people representing national and local papers throughout this great land of ours – there will also be those of us who left journalism behind to find other uses for our talent: from photographers to authors to drug company execs and everything in between.

The tie that binds us all is that we all passed through The Gazette.

It’s safe to say that, while I attended the University of Western Ontario for knowledge, it is atThe Gazette that I discovered my passion. Having entered university with a mind for psychology, it was what came after those first tentative steps into (at the time) a portable located near J.W. Little Stadium that changed my life forever – and for the better.

It was there that I met a group of people that I’m pleased to call both my peers and my mentors. I met a collective of passionate student-journalists and photographers who refused to place the term student before newspaper. We worked long hours, sometimes seven days a week, to create Canada’s only daily student newspaper.

The people there became almost a second family – in fact, during my year as Editor-in-Chief, putting in 12 to 15-hour days, they became almost a surrogate family as I saw them more than I did my own. Countless cups of coffee and far too many bad take-out meals refused to sate the hunger many of us felt searching for the next great story.

Since then, I’ve lived in Montreal and come back to London. I’ve kept a toe – well, more of a foot – in journalism, in print, on the Web, and in radio. I’ve built up a fairly substantial corporate communications resume, and I’ve succeeded in jobs that I really had no right having (medical writer? Hello? I pass out at needles). But it was The Gazette that gave me that foundation upon which I could build my dreams. The fact that a dedicated few were able to consistently put out a paper of which we could be proud, with limited resources, time constraints, and publisher pressure gave us all the confidence to know that we could do anything. And just by associating with such wonderful people, I believe I was able to learn, by osmosis, how to be a better writer.

It’s the nature of the beast that people don’t understand how important this publication was to those who passed through its doors. The concept of a working for a student paper is one that’s regarded almost as quaint, but for those of us who were a part of it, it was more than a job or a hobby – it was an all-consuming passion. There was nothing quaint about it – it was our life, and we were able to live it to its fullest.

We strove with each printed word to ensure that our readership – a diverse market of 18,000 students – were represented and responsibly informed. We tried, through education, irreverence, and sober editorializing, to make people aware of the issues that directly impacted them. We became invested in the betterment of the university and its students in a way that few appreciated – certainly not the administration or students’ council who were often the targets of our investigation. Yet our goal, as always, was to ensure that students were informed and empowered. Lofty goals, but ones we took seriously.

Each day we laughed, cried, railed against the system, and rejoiced in our successes. We were there for each other in good times and bad. We also partied as hard as we worked – compressing as much release as we could in our limited down-time.

Of course, time passes. And, like others, friendships that you believe will last forever fade into memory as work, family, and life give you other avenues in which to invest your passion. Personally, there are people that I haven’t spoken to in 10 years, who I once spent over half my day with each and every day – others are kept in touch with via semi-regular e-mails.

But the passionate fire that The Gazette once stoked in us has yet to die out – it only smolders. And for one night, as over 150 of us gather around to catch up, reminisce, and share stories, that passion will burn. No matter how far-flung we may find ourselves, no matter where life has taken us, we all have one common tie that binds us tighter than anything else – a little student newspaper that didn’t know when to quit.

Simply put, those who made The Gazette a significant part of their lives cared. We cared about our university and our readership – and that’s why so many of us return today to celebrate 100 years of this fine publication. And we’ll raise a glass to the passion that’s fuelled the fires that have kept The Gazette burning for a century – and will keep it burning bright for a century more.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

What Happens When the Promise of a New Day Gets Broken?

By Jason Menard

Today marked the first day of school for many of our children. Little faces were aglow at the thought of re-acquainting with old friends and meeting new ones. Older faces were awash with a mix of anticipation and anxiety wondering where they’ll fit in the social pecking order.

All in all, it’s a day of promise – one where we hope for the future. Most importantly, it’s a day of fun and the anticipation of more days of fun ahead. While we want our kids to savour each and every moment of their days, it’s hard not to feel a little jealous about the freedom that their lives carry.

For them, the promise of a new day is always positive, but the true test of life comes when, as we get older, that promise gets broken.

The question is often asked as to why gossip rags and tabloid TV are so popular? Why do soap operas capture the imagination of so many? Why do we get lost in the search of fantasy? The answer is that we’re obsessed with an idealized version of life, the kind of which we’re not likely to obtain. And that promise of an unlimited future we enjoyed as a child, slowly ebbs away under the eroding forces of everyday life.

Driving past any schoolyard, we are regaled with the sounds of joy: raucous laughter and squeals of delight. We experience so much as youth and enjoy so much more, one has to wonder where does that sense of joy go as we get older?

Bogged down by financial constraints, time commitments, and interpersonal challenges, we spend too much time focusing on the can’t-dos and the negatives, instead of appreciating the positives. Every joy comes with a cost, which tempers our ability to fully feel everything that life has to offer. As a child, we enjoy the experience, as an adult we take measured joy out of the activity, balancing it with the financial cost and its impact on our budget.

That’s why we love the tabloids and that’s why we’re obsessed with stars. They’re not living beyond our wildest dreams – they’re living our wildest dreams! They’re living life free from the constraints that shackle us down and prevent us from exploring and expressing joy to its fullest. They have the financial wherewithal and time to enjoy the best that life has to offer without worrying about family budgets and mortgages.

The old adage states that money doesn’t buy happiness. And that’s true, but money does buy you the opportunity to maximize your return on life’s investment. Having the financial wherewithal to allow the mundane aspects of day-to-day life to recede into the distance doesn’t mean you’re going to be happy. But it does provide a freedom that we average folk just can’t enjoy – and that’s why we so hungrily gobble up the tabloid garbage.

And that’s also why we take such pleasure in discussing their failures. We don’t build them up to break them down – instead, we break them down because we can’t be built up ourselves to that level. If we can’t enjoy that idealized lifestyle, then we don’t want others to do so either.

It certainly isn’t an attractive aspect of humanity. In fact, it’s downright ugly. And it’s also a taste for schadenfreude that we acquire. After all, our kids are living life blissfully ignorant of the challenges that they’re going to face. They’re living in the here and now, not budgeting and forecasting for the future. That’s our job as parents and our jobs as adults.

Sometimes life throws you curveballs. Sometimes you get hit by that pitch. But as painful as it may be, getting hit by that pitch offers you an opportunity to get on base and, eventually, come around to score. Of course, some of us will be tagged out at second, some of us will come tantalizing close to home plate, only to be met by the catcher. And others of us will circle the bases and add another run to the board. Life’s not offering us promises, it’s offering us potential – and how we use that potential is up to us.

It’s forgetting that potential that prevents us from being happy. Sometimes we forget and lose our way, weighed down by the challenges that we’re facing. Instead of meeting the day with hopeful anticipation, we face it with grim resolve, stoically ‘getting through’ the day, instead of relishing every moment.

Our kids have it right. They don’t live Utopian lives: they face peer pressure and rejection on the school yard; they carry the weight of their parents’ struggles with them; and they are facing a future as full of uncertainty as promise. Yet still they’re able to laugh long and loud – they’re not wasting the freedom and joy that life has to offer. The key is to do the same as an adult. It’s not about forgetting about your challenges, it’s about maximizing the good in your day and dealing with the bad, but not letting the latter taint your appreciation of the former. It’s simple to say, but not so easy to do, but it’s something many of us have to get better at doing.

In the end, living in spite of life is no way to live. And when we look back on life do we want to say we endured it or enjoyed it?

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Tecumseh’s Trees Obscuring Educational Forest

By Jason Menard

In a true case of not being able to see the forest for the trees, the battle over a small public school in South London has become the focal point of the debate regarding the Thames Valley District School Board’s future – and it’s preventing us from taking a good hard look at the education system as a whole.

As a former student at South Secondary School – the big, bad entity that’s going to swallow up Tecumseh Public School – I found myself thinking that what was being obscured was the loss of what potentially is one of the most unique learning environments in the city – good ol’ SCI. Would annexing the neighbouring facility not precede an increase of student enrollment? Would that educational Mecca be trampled underfoot of a stampeding horde of additional students?

But my memories betray the reality of the situation. I remember a school where 700 kids grew together, learned together, and enjoyed a community environment that didn’t exist in other schools where enrollment was larger. We pretty much knew – or knew of – everyone else in the school and there was a comfort level attached to it. My worry, upon following this story, was that this small-school benefit would be lost.

Lo and behold, maybe it already has. And maybe we’re arguing for a past that no longer exists. In speaking with South’s current principal Barb Sonier, and Chris Dennett, the manager of public affairs and community relations for the TVDSB, today’s situation differs greatly from my almost 15 years’ past reality.

South is bursting at the seams. With nine portables and over 1,000 students, there’s no elbow room. The student body can’t fit into the auditorium at the same time. How can minds expand when there’s no room to breathe? So, with declining elementary enrollment and need for space, the annexation of Tecumseh’s facilities by South just makes sense, right? Maybe. But perhaps there are other answers.

And by focusing on these little brush fires, we’re missing out on actions that we can take to put out the raging inferno that’s building. We can’t continue to apply band-aid solutions to our education system. We can’t continue to play feast or famine with various schools, depending on demographic or residential swings. The time to take broad, decisive actions is now.

We have to stop thinking regionally. We should be thinking of the betterment of all students. It’s hard to argue that the kids in Old South shouldn’t be able to go to their school. It’s hard to look at their cherubic little faces in the paper, or see the heart-felt appeals they make to save their school, and say that it’s not possible. But it’s equally hard to say that other students – maybe older, maybe from a different area – don’t have the right to a maximized education as well.

How do we decide? Case by case won’t work. And pie-in-the-sky calls for more funding will continue to go unheeded. It’s time to work towards a cure of our education system, not just treating the symptoms when they flare up, with the tools at our disposal – today.

And first and foremost, we have to look at where education should be going. Our system has been in place for years, but the world is changing at an increasingly rapid pace. Are our schools meeting the needs? Not all that long ago, you could argue that having a separate school board for Catholic students and a quote-unquote public system (which, not too long ago was often referred to as Protestant…) made sense. In today’s multi-cultural and multi-religious society, one would be hard pressed to find an argument in favour of the duplication of effort, the waste of resources, and the imbalance in facilities.

Patching the holes won’t work any more. We need to tear down and rebuild the system. We need to find one that works for all students. Obviously money is at a premium, so why not do our best to maximize the allocation of these precious resources? Instead of two separate school boards, roll them together and focus on the creation of programs that embrace our society’s multi-denominational status, so that we can learn to love, respect, and understand one another.

And the short-fall in the elementary system won’t be restricted to there. In time, those diminished numbers will filter up to the high school system. Do we wait for a crisis at that time, or do we take the steps necessary to ensure our system, as a whole, is ready for the challenges that are before us?

Tradition has a role to play in our society and we should embrace it, but not at the expense of any child’s education. Although the decisions may be tough, we have to ensure that the already stretched dollars and overtaxed teaching resources aren’t strained until the point where they snap. It’s time for someone to take a carte blanche approach to the education system and create a best-practices scenario for today’s demographics.

We can’t just hold onto the past. The tighter we squeeze, the faster it slips through our fingers. The South of my memories is gone – but the commitment to excellence in education remains. Let’s just make sure that today’s students have the same opportunity to succeed that I did. And that comes with defining a plan, using resources wisely, and dealing with today’s realities – not yesterday’s memories.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

The Future is Now

By Jason Menard

For all of you out there lamenting the state of today’s youth and worrying about the future of our society, it’s time to put up or shut up. The future can be bright – especially with organizations like Future Possibilities around to help foster and grow our community’s leaders.

Unfortunately, the organization is in dire straits – not for lack of promise by the youth, but by lack of interest and support from the very adults who, in general, condemn today’s youth for the casual attitude towards life and laziness.

Future Possibilities, whose Canadian roots start in Toronto, branched out last year with a satellite operation in London’s Glen Cairn Public School. The program is designed to pair a young child, between the ages of eight and 12, with a Kid Coach – an adult from the community who works weekly with the child to create, develop, and execute a Goal of Contribution to the community. All of this at no cost to the participants.

And, while the participants may be small, the scope of their goals betrays their diminutive stature. Last year, for example, Canadian participants ran fundraisers and drives which resulted in the donation of thousands of items and funds to women’s shelters, food banks, hospitals and humane societies. Students were able to raise money and donations for families in war-torn regions of our world. Students developed programs and supported the learning of the French language in our schools. They created and hosted bike-a-thons, dog-walk-a-thons, you-name-it-a-thons, all in the name of raising money for charities and foundations across this country.

Small dreamers with big dreams – and certainly their actions run counter to the stereotypical view of today’s youth.

And that’s where the stereotype falls down. These kids are all special, but their not unique. They’ve simply been given the opportunity, the support, and the encouragement from both their parents and their kid coaches to make a difference in the world around them. They’ve been shown that, no matter the size or the stature, each and every one of us in this world can make a significant difference for the better – and that’s a lesson that we, as adults, could stand to learn.

The London expansion went so well last year that the organization decided to expand again and allow more children the opportunity to participate in the program. Unfortunately, while the will was there to grow, the support has been lacking so far. But it’s not a lack of interested kids – it’s a lack of interested adults.

As adults in this world, we can’t simply sit back and shake our head at today’s youth. Being supercilious in our condemnation of today’s kids doesn’t help the situation – and, more importantly, it isn’t fair. Most kids today want to make a difference. Given the opportunity, they want to help, to be active, and to make their community a better place to live. But there’s only so much they can do on their own. They need support from adults like us.

We, as parents, community leaders, and concerned citizens, have an obligation to future generations to guide them and show them the right path. When you combine our knowledge with our kids’ enthusiasm, great things can result. And that’s been proven over and over by the goals and actions of Future Possibilities’ kids.

And the best part of this program is that it’s not a one-shot thing. Once these kids have experienced the realization of their potential, and once they get a sense of what they can do on their own, then they’re motivated to continue to make a difference in our community. They’re motivated to be better citizens, be more active, and be better role models for their peers.

There are kids who have the will, but lack the way because we’re too busy looking down at today’s youth instead of getting off our high horses and putting in some real leg work. If programs like Future Possibilities fail through lack of support, then we have only ourselves to blame.

If you’re interested in supporting Future Possibilities, either through contributions of time, resources, or support – or if you’re interested in lending your expertise and guidance as a Kid Coach – please contact Michele Sands, the London Chapter’s director, atmichele@fpcanada.org.

The possibilities for the future can be bright, but our kids need our help to shine a light on their potential.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

More than Just Students of Life

By Jason Menard

By overwhelming our children with homework are we not preventing them from doing the very thing we’re sending them to school to do? Learn.

My son, one month into his sixth-grade year, is slowly going pasty white from lack of exposure to the sun. At this rate, we’ll have to change his name to Quasimodo due to the nice hump that’s forming from being hunched over a desk each and every night.

Like many students, my son is faced with a mountain of homework each and every night. And because it takes so long for him to climb his way to the top, he’s not afforded the opportunity to stop from time to time and simply enjoy the view.

I’m all for giving homework to kids to improve their study habits, work discipline, and to show that with effort comes reward. However, we appear to be placing unfair expectations on our children — accepting something as the norm for them, which the majority of us wouldn’t appreciate in our adult lives.

As we progress through our careers, we strive to find that sweet spot in work/life balance. We look for that elusive zone wherein we don’t just live to work, but we work to live. Although some of us may take our jobs home with us, we’re all working for a day when we can strike that delicate balance between what we have to do to make a living, and what we want to do to live life to its fullest.

So why should we expect any less from our children? More importantly, why are we placing such a premium on the knowledge gleaned from sticking a nose in a book if it comes at the cost of true learning?

Life isn’t just about what you learn in a text book, or what you summarize from a chapter. It’s the sum of all your experiences: intellectual being a component, but no more or less integral than the emotional, social, and physical. In an attempt to ensure success and optimal use of time, we’re sacrificing the best part of our kids’ childhood – the ability just to have fun and be a kid. Throughout my life, I’ve learned as much, if not more, through my interaction with others and through the exploration of my own interests than I have in any lesson-planned activity or curriculum.

My true passions are not the ones that have been lectured to me, but rather the ones that I’ve searched out and discovered on my own. The most rewarding work I’ve done in my life hasn’t been assigned – it’s been assumed as a result of my own interest. But without the time to go out and explore the world and their own interests, our children are in danger of becoming one-dimensional.

Essentially, the purpose of any education isn’t just to memorize trivia or to get good grades. The true value of a good education comes from the fact that we learn how to learn. We learn how to explore the world around us with an open, yet critical eye. We learn how to be open to new experiences and value them based upon their own criteria – not a strict adherence to existing beliefs. We learn to take each new day as an opportunity to better ourselves by allowing the world around us to unfold and reveal itself to us, open for our interpretations.

Yet, in order to experience life at its fullest, we need to have more than just an intellectual knowledge of its concepts. We need to be able to feel and understand. The old adage states that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. But it’s not just the memorization of facts that will prevent us from repeating past transgressions – we need to understand the context behind actions and be able to empathize with people and situations.

If we don’t allow our kids to explore those aspects of their lives, then how can we expect them to truly succeed?

This isn’t to say that all homework is bad. Far from it. Homework teaches kids valuable lessons about the future: the need for preparation, the need for constant self-improvement, and the understanding that there is a world of information out there waiting to be explored. Yet, those lessons shouldn’t be taught at the expense of living their lives. It’s one thing to know how and when a painting was created, but if we don’t understand the emotions and feelings behind its creation, then most of the value is lost.

Let’s apply the concept of striking a work/life balance to our kids. We need to understand that going to school is a job – and with it comes the reward of having some down-time to explore their own personal interests. We expect that right as adults, so why are our expectations different for our children?

We have to stop thinking of down-time as a negative concept. We have to look at play not as a waste of time, but rather an integral part of the learning and aging process. Whether it’s in a group or on their own, our children’s social, physical, and emotional development can only benefit from the opportunities available only during free time.

We need to find that balance between when kids have to be students of life and when they’re actually allowed to be participants in life, because that’s the most valuable lesson they’ll ever learn.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

The Definition of Life Isn’t Found in a Dictionary

By Jason Menard

I suppose congratulations are in order for California eighth-grader Anurag Kashyap for his impressive achievement of winning the United States’ 2005 annual spelling bee. But, for some reason, I can’t help but feel a little bit sorry for the kid.

Cruising through the world appoggiatura, the 13-year-old Kashyap took home the grand prize: scholarships, savings bonds, and books from Encyclopedia Britannica. And, officially, the 15 minutes of his fame is rapidly winding down.

Now I have no doubt that the home-schooled Kashyap is going to be a phenomenal success in life. Why he’ll probably finish high school early while taking university courses at night, so that he can graduate from his Ivy League university at 20. But somewhere, in the back of my mind, I can’t help but feel that this kid – and others like him – will miss out on something important in life.

Pageant moms have become a running joke in our society, symbols of parents living vicariously through their kids to satisfy their desire for recognition and success. North of the border, we’re familiar with the hockey dad, who takes his kid’s involvement in the sport way too seriously – and occasionally being barred from the local arena for his, uhm, enthusiasm.

But while we’re free to condemn these parents for their obsessive behaviours in the athletic and aesthetic fields, why don’t we do the same when obsession rears its head in the intellectual field?

Words are my way of life. They’re my passion. I love writing, I love editing, I love the whole communications kit and caboodle – but, save for the purposes of this column, I’ve never had the need, nor do I ever anticipate ever having the need to use the word appoggiatura. In fact, unless you’re deeply immersed in the world of advanced music appreciation, chances are you could happily go through life without this particular collection of letters appearing in your vocabulary.

Kashyap? He didn’t come by this word on his own volition – he studied it as part in parcel of attempting to win this spelling bee. It’s not learning for the sake of gaining a greater appreciation of the world, it’s obsessive studying of obscure words for the sake of this contest.

And what do we do with it now? Like the mathematician who tries to impress his or her friends with the fact that they have memorized Pi to 132 digits, their feats become nothing more than party tricks – and, not to stereotype, but I’m not certain they’re getting invited into too many parties. And I’m pretty sure most of us wouldn’t want to go to the types of parties that they are getting invites for – that the majority of people don’t appreciate.

So this kid has learned to be the top speller for his time. But where does he go from here? Does obsessively poring over dictionaries adequately prepare one for life after school is done? Where is the social interaction, where is the physical development, where is the ability to function as a part of a greater community on a variety of topics that’s so important in both business and life?

Many of us shake our heads at athletes who drop out of school in their high school years for a chance to live the dream of playing their chosen sport for life. And then, when the inevitable crash comes, what are they left with? What have they learned? Is this obsessive dedication to intelligence any better? While it may leave one more financially secure in the long run, how does it impact their social abilities?

What ever happened to the idea of raising our kids to be diverse, independent thinkers that are open to new experiences? By focusing them so acutely on one task or one interest, we do them the disservice of giving them tunnel vision – and they miss out on the little things that make childhood, and life, special.

I was in the advanced/gifted classes in my youth. I had friends who went that route, focusing only on things that made them smarter – not necessarily things that made them better. So, while some of us chose to balance our thirst for knowledge with a desire to broaden our perspectives, others withdrew within themselves, shying away from others, and only feeling comfortable with topics that were familiar to them.

The bitter irony of all of this is that experiencing life affords you the opportunity for a greater appreciation of the things we learn as we age. Anyone can study enough to recite Shakespeare’s sonnets by wrote, but it’s not until you’ve experienced love first-hand that you truly understand what the words mean.

If variety is the spice of life, some of these kids need to be shaken up a little and experience more than a dictionary. Education isn’t bad – but it’s not the be all and end all. What we need to realize is that an education is best at teaching us how to learn, how to appreciate, and how to contextualize our experiences.

Simply put, you can’t find the answer to everything in a dictionary.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved