Our school district recently sent a survey to parents, teachers and other stakeholders. One question asked us to list three things to answer: “What skills does an APS student need to be successful?”
As a parent of two APS students, an advocate for educational equity, and someone who leads an organization dedicated to ensuring APS graduates can be successful in college, I’ve researched and reflected a lot about what students need, but this question caught me off guard. I can only list 3 things? Is it Reading? Comprehension? Writing? Analysis? Computation? Scientific Method? Time-management? Self-regulation? The list of possible choices is endless. But when I paused to think about my own children, and what skills I’ve tried to encourage in them, the answer came into focus.
- Intellectual curiosity
- Ability to think critically
As educators and policy makers, we can sometimes be myopic about the work we do. Mastery of skills, hitting milestones and acquiring credentials are worthy goals, but often in administering the technical aspects of educating our students, we lose sight of the vision we have for what we truly want for our kids.
It is true that in our country, graduating from high school and earning a post-secondary degree are still the surest ways to ensure one’s ability to sustain oneself economically. And given the ever-widening income gap, it is crucial that we give our students, especially our most marginalized kids, access to opportunity. But I truly believe that the real value of an education is the awakening that it brings about in those who wrestle with, and struggle through, the process of acquiring knowledge.
Throughout time, philosophers have debated the question of what makes a happy life—or, as Aristotle put it, a good life. Our Declaration of Independence asserts that we all have an unalienable right to pursue happiness. As we work to ensure that we deliver a great education to all our students let’s not lose sight that the most noble mission we can have is to give students the skills they need to pursue a good and happy life.
Here is a link to the APS survey LINK, which closes this Friday, October 19. I applaud the district for asking these important questions and I encourage everyone to participate.