22 August 2008

Educating to Avoid Psychological Neoteny

Children and teenagers are capable of far more responsibility and productive exposure to the adult world than modern societies allow. The over-protective pampering of children and teens creates incompetent lifelong psychological neotenates--due to the missing of critical developmental stages. Better methods of child-raising and educating must learn to supply the missing pieces--particularly for children at risk. At Cristo Rey Catholic schools, kids are expected to work in the real world one day a week for tuition.
Placing high demands on kids reminds them that they are expected to do things with their lives. But talk to students at Cristo Rey schools, and they tell you that, for all their hours spent graphing algebraic equations, it is their jobs that get them thinking most about the future. In their gleaming office buildings, they see men and women who earn enough to afford nice, safe homes. They see how people set priorities and deadlines and execute projects. It’s easy to mock corporate America, but compared with the chaos of inner-city life, a cubicle with your name on it can seem like heaven.

“I like my job a lot, since when I grow up I want to be a defense attorney,” says Andrew Emanuel, a Christ the King freshman who works at the Newark branch of the law firm Kirkpatrick & Lockhart, Nicholson, Graham. “I really enjoy socializing and conversing with most of the attorneys at my job. I ask them what’s their motivation in life, and what keeps them going.” They in turn tell him to stay in school and do his homework. It’s standard advice, but it means more coming from people in his intended profession.

Cristo Rey students feel needed by their employers. When Christ the King Prep board chairman Neal Jasey goes around recruiting businesses to hire student teams, he mentions the P.R. and employee morale benefits of having young people around, but adds “I do argue that this is an economically sensible thing to do: $25,000 for a team of four kids—if you have that kind of [clerical] work—is a pretty reasonable cost.” It’s a win-win proposition; at full enrollment, earned income (which includes temp stipends and tuition) is supposed to account for 85 percent of a Cristo Rey school’s operating budget. That’s sustainable in a way that depending on church fund raising is not.

The kids are fully accountable for their performance at work. Christ the King Prep asked several students to leave this year because of difficulties with their employers. “They weren’t getting the job done at work,” says Principal Kevin Cuddihy. “And if you can’t work, you can’t pay the tuition, so you can’t come back. It’s that simple. Economic realities are harsh when applied to 14-year-olds, but that’s the market forces at work here.”

Largely because of these expectations, Cristo Rey kids are more polished and polite than even well-to-do teenagers. Each school holds a training camp in the summer to teach incoming freshmen how to behave in a professional environment. These young people shake hands. They look you in the eye. They know how to file and fax, and which fork to use if the boss offers to take them out to lunch. _Reason_via_JJ
The exposure to real world responsibilities and possibilities gives the kids something that 6 or 7 hours of sitting in classrooms every day never could. It also gives them a confidence based upon demonstrated competence in the real world. Until you witness the results of such ongoing experiments in teaching responsibility, it is easy to be lulled into complacency about current failed education and child-raising methods.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unlike most other writing on this subject, you've offered a solution. Well-put.

Saturday, 01 August, 2009  

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