The primary goal of education should be to expose students to a wide array of opportunities in order for them to find a passion. We want our children to have the skills to compete in a globally competitive world and also be happy and successful. Visit a pre-school anywhere and you will see children full of curiosity and excitement about learning. But unfortunately, it’s a rare high schooler who demonstrates any passion and excitement for something related to their education. Tony Wagner states, “A young adult just going through the motions at school is a young adult who isn’t learning or developing skills.”
In his book, Most Likely to Succeed, Tony Wagner describes Scarsdale High School as one of the most prestigious public schools in the country. Sixty percent of the graduates are admitted to the most elite colleges. One of their students, Rachel Wolfe, made a movie entitled Losing Ourselves. This was about her and her classmates experience in school and the loss of purpose, passion, and curiosity from elementary school to high school. I believe you will find this documentary very interesting. You can view it at
As parents and teachers we can assist our children in sustaining their passions and discovering new ones along their path in education. Engaged students who have a passion for what they are doing will not only learn and retain factual information along the way; they will develop critical thinking skills, communication skills, and collaboration skills. These are the lifetime competency skills or the survival skills that Tony Wagner believes are essential for success in our global society.
The “Seven Survival Skills” are:
- · Critical thinking and problem-solving
- · Collaboration across networks and leading by example
- · Agility and adaptability
- · Initiative and entrepreneurship
- · Effective oral, written, and multimedia communication
- · Accessing and analyzing information
- · Curiosity and imagination
Imagine the possibilities for your children if schools had a clear set of achievement measures for each survival skill instead of just covering a large amount of content. What if we measured progress with how students use constructive feedback to show continuous improvement instead of a score on a multiple choice test that relies heavily on basic recall? I believe if we build the competencies and passions of our students, they will be able to set their path and overcome obstacles along their journey in life.
We are all responsible for placing so much emphasis on the SOL tests. These tests are never seen by an employer, college or university but somehow these tests have driven how we teach our children. I know if we focus our efforts on critical thinking, effective communication, collaboration, and the other skills mentioned, our children will not only pass their SOL tests, but they will be prepared and excited about their future in this new global society. Therefore, I believe it is up to each school community to make meaningful decisions and prioritize the skills we want our children to possess to be successful in their future. Then we have to support our teachers and administrators when they focus on building these skills through authentic learning experiences.