Thursday, October 23, 2014

Making a Commitment to Character

By Sam Piha
Sam Piha
We all know that preparing young people with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed as adults is a primary function of a society. But who is really responsible and what skills and knowledge are needed? 

To begin, we believe that adults and institutions where children spend their time need to think about their role. Naturally, the family, media, and broader culture comes into play but it is time that schools and youth programs step up to the plate by promoting social and emotional skills and opportunities to practice them. 
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In the recent past, school leaders claimed that their only responsibility was promoting academic skills as measured by test scores. We would argue that the responsibility for developing a positive school climate and developing social emotional skills is vital to academic learning and healthy development. In a new study released today by the Brookings Institution, "Non-cognitive skills and character competencies have as much of an effect on success as academic skill". This joins a growing body of research on non-cognitive skills, social emotional learning, school climate, growth mindsets, and the brain that points to the importance of these skills to academic learning in promoting healthy development - something that youth development researchers have been saying for a long time. 

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Expanded learning youth programs, whether they are school-based or after school, also have an important role and there is room for much improvement in this area. According to research, afterschool programs that include social emotional learning are the most successful in positively impacting young people in every domain including academic success. And let's not leave off the role of parents and guardians.  

People ask, "What exactly are these skills? What can we do?". Because children are increasingly growing up in a "mean culture", now is the time for everyone to come together and promote these skills and opportunities to practice them. We will expand on these issues in future blog posts.

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