For the 4 million unemployed youth in America looking for work, the solution may be a service corps, said Walter Isaacson.
OK this may not sit well with many of my professional colleagues, but it's something that has been of concern to me for awhile.
You're welcome to use the comment button that appears below when you mouse down to the end of my remarks to share some feedback.
I've had truly mixed feelings about the "Follow your passion" conversation over the past several years among technology using educator friends for whom I have immense respect.
On the one hand I've recognized for decades that one's passions are powerful motivators and make excellent bridges between the known and liked and the unknown and often suspected or worse rejected by default.
I've seen how one's passions can bring out the inner strength and curiosity and tenacity in the face of challenge and most of all a determination to "become" that led many students over the years to achieve their dreams. I saw it in the former student who plays for the New York Philharmonic, the former student whose doodlings led him to Hollywood where he achieved great success and now is a primary player behind the scenes on prestigious children's educational television. I've seen former students of many religious and non-religious belief systems go on to dedicate themselves to feeding the poor, educating the many, and lives of giving whereever they find the opportunity to do so.
Yet, I've also witnessed the inadvertent discouragiing criticism and sometimes scornful contempt that some educators have shown towards a young person's interests. I've written often about how Mr. Kay did NOT, as others had, criticize my interest in "less sophisticated literature" such as MAD Magazine and the James Bond novels. But, rather he was wise enough to use that interest as a starting point for coaxing me towards "other books I might enjoy." But, thruthfully? He was a master teacher.
I had many others before and after, including a larger percentage of college professors who did more to discourage any interest in reading I might have than to encourage it. Though it was Mr. Kay in high school, and Ms Fitzgerald, Dr. Kim, and Dr. VanBecker in college who sealed the deal on my decision to become a teacher of great literature. How? They dangled some sort of carrot just a little bit ahead of where my existing interests were that generated so much interest that I was more than eager to see beyond my previously discovered levels of passion and interest.
I sometimes joke that "If I were encouraged to follow my passions in high school I might well be in jail today." I was a late bloomer as many boys were and are. My passions were girls. I read James Bond books for the tips I might find for... well, you know. But, I had no more luck than my belief much later in life that buying the same putter that Tiger Woods used would make be a better golfer.
Another passion was cars; big, fast, girl-attracting cars; cars that realistically were beyond my reach and led me for several years to actually believe that having a gull-wing Mercedes-Benz 300SL "someday" was a worthwhile dream.
And, having worn geeky glasses since fourth grade, I believed that it was the glasses that explained my lack of success with girls. So, I directed my attention towards at least having the "cute" girls (another misguided understanding I held of what qualities were necessary in a girl friend) pay attention to me by becoming a class clown; the funny guy in their fourth period biology class. This "passion" lead to my willingness to do some fairly shameful things in pursuit of attention.
And worst of all, thanks to Mr. Kay who had been there supporting the me he saw before I saw that me in myself, as I finally began to wonder if I had misdirected much of my high school attentions, I began to crack my way out of that cocoon of self-centered superficiality, just in time to have been selected as the senior male with the best personality; a victory based upon a level of popularity I'd achieved in passionate pursuit of everything I was beginning to realize had been not only a waste of time, but also a collection of experiences for which I have since spent a great deal of my subsequent years being ashamed.
Recognizing the power of encouraging rather than discouraging the passions of our young charges, is invaluable to every educator. But, if we are to pursue this as an effective strategy, we must keep in mind that we also have an obligation to help students craft their passions as well. We must attend to the science and art of great teaching.
And, I happen to believe that selling the value of reading great literature; literature that shares the characters' journeys toward greater wisdom just may be one of the greatest tools for helping students refine existing passions while at the same time exploring the deeper values that may just call existing passions into question replacing and/or refining them; encouraging them to reach beyond themselves to become, each in their own way, benefactors to others.
(And that in a nutshell is why I just don't care about how much money people keep telling me I could be making off of Google Lit Trips, but rather choose to give it all away)