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School Is About More Than Training Kids to Be Adults - The Atlantic

School Is About More Than Training Kids to Be Adults The Atlantic



But maybe it’s simpler than all of that—maybe they’re not going to get on board with anything if the adult working world is the unfortunate destination.

I started wondering: What about adulthood do I think should inherently appeal to teenagers? My students probably go on better vacations than I do, they eat food that’s just as yummy, and they certainly sleep longer. Adults, meanwhile, are washing clothes, cooking good meals, and driving their kids to practice.

I have to stop assuming that my students are consciously interested in joining the workforce or paying thousands of dollars to study for another four or so years—or having opportunities to argue on Twitter.So I asked them for their thoughts. Without telling them why, I gave them anonymous (though admittedly unscientific) surveys. I asked the 40 students, "Who usually has a better day— you or your parents?" Seventy percent of them said themselves. I then asked each of the 40 kids to list the first five real-life stories, from the news or their own lives, that came to their mind involving adults; I then asked them to list a couple adjectives for each of those five responses. The top answers consisted of "Ebola" (mentioned 15 times), "Ferguson riots" (14), "ISIS beheadings" (6), "Ray Rice" (5), "Charlie Hebdo" (3), "Robin Williams’ suicide" (3), and "deflated footballs" (3). The only positive stories that came up (14 total out of 200 answers) involved the Super Bowl and the World Cup—which are really just glorified games—and, of course, the Serial podcast, which is actually a nonfiction story about high school students. The top adjectives were "sad," "upsetting," "scary," "interesting," "stupid," "frightening," and "terrifying." (There were also five mentions of "fun" for the sporting events.) 

Finally, nearly two-thirds of the students reported that they would rather have a "fun job for their favorite team or band" for $30,000-a-year salary than a "job that involves analysis and synthesis" for $50,000 a year.  

What does this mean for me as a teacher? For starters, I have to stop basing some of my lessons on the assumption that they are consciously interested in joining the workforce, or paying thousands of dollars to study for another four or so years, or having opportunities to argue on Twitter.

My students actually like to read; many of them do so voluntarily for pleasure. I should probably focus on tapping into that affinity. They like The Hunger Games, they like Of Mice and Men, and they like Serial. They want to play games and talk with their friends, and they want to learn more about people and lessons applicable to their everyday lives. That's how I can engage them.

They generally don’t care much about talking in a "professional register" or citing their papers according to the MLA style. That doesn't mean I'm not going to teach those things; I'm just going to be more honest with my approach. I'm not going to pretend these lessons are intrinsically interesting to them, and I'm not going to think that infusing social media into my lesson plans is going to change anything in that regard.

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Two thirds would rather have a fun job for barely any pay than a boring job for decent pay. 

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