Warning: This blog post is doused with personal opinion and should be treated as such!
A recent report published by Harvard Graduate School of Education offers recommendations for improving the college admission process by placing more value on the applicants’ demonstrated “concern for others and the common good.” As a counselor first and a college counselor by profession, I have been increasingly concerned with the level of anxiety, depression and substance abuse displayed in high school students nationwide. Have we created this monster by loading up the shoulders of these young adults with outside pressure to perform? Have we projected our ideas of success and accomplishment irresponsibly upon the lives of these teenagers? Have we saturated their imaginations with our view of the status quo and what they ought to be and do?
I am afraid that our society has trained our young minds to load up their CVs with clutter in an effort to present themselves perfectly on paper in order to get into the most selective colleges, as prescribed by the U.S. News and World Report. It's almost as if we have turned these amazing young people into chemistry experiments; what would your perfect compound look like? I do believe that the independent, collaborative and innovative way Post Oak holistically educates young adults is idyllic in our world, but why are we the minority?
I am extremely energized by The Post Oak High School and how we do make an intentional effort to unapologetically educate the whole person in a non-traditional way. Although our students do explore their interests from very early ages at Post Oak, their paths are not without the noise and pressure from the outside world. As I digest the Turning the Tide report, I am encouraged that the pendulum is swinging in a direction that truly focuses on: 1. Promoting more meaningful contributions to others, community service and engagement with the public good. 2. Assessing students’ ethical engagement and contributions to others in ways that reflect varying types of family and community contributions across race, culture and class. 3. Redefining achievement in ways that both level the playing field for economically diverse students and reduce excessive achievement pressure.
The level of competition and the cut-throat culture that exists today is alarming to me. I am moved by the fact that we are calling out the issues and gaining momentum to act. I am motivated by people like Dr. Robert Sternberg and his efforts to improve standardized testing; the Coalition for Access team, and the FairTest initiative. Times are changing; are we starting a movement?
Will you stand with me to help make caring common? *Making Caring Common (MCC), a project of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, helps educators, parents, and communities raise children who are caring, responsible to their communities, and committed to justice.