To the Editor:
In a recent Commentary, the authors outlined how serious the plight of our young people is today, highlighted by the stunning increase in their suicide rates (“Could Altruism Curb Teen Suicide?” June 20, 2018). I also appreciate that their suggested “benefit” reforms could move education in the right direction. However, a lifetime of trying to determine how we can best prepare children for the future has taught me that the roots of the suicide problem go much deeper.
Our present education system wrongly sees children as mini-adults. Too focused on funneling students to become future workers or college students, the current educational system fails to recognize the individual potential of its students. Each child is unique, gifted with a potential which is guided by a moral compass.
Education should first serve each child’s potential—the foundation for a successful and fulfilling life. When education does this, students are in a better position to receive the support they need to succeed in the classroom.
It’s my experience that kids generally need to face a challenge in adolescence in order to develop the deep confidence needed to manage life. When teachers help a student conquer this challenge, the student gains trust in those teachers and is motivated to participate in learning.
Students are often in a defensive position in the classroom, but they can develop a more open attitude when teachers show that they are willing to help them prepare for life. As a result, when teachers help students, students are then encouraged to reach out and help their peers. Connecting with students on a more personal level contributes to both scholarship and character development.
Note the educational emphasis here on the individual student reflects this nation’s founding principles of individuality and equality. Take care of the student, and the student will prosper and be your ally.
Joseph W. Gauld
A version of this article appeared in the July 18, 2018 edition of Education Week as Students Are Not ‘Mini-Adults’