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Beyond Academics

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November 08, 2010 03:21 pm


kids-tvFriday’s Journal section of the Wall Street Journal (always good reading BTW) has a cover story on “TV’s battle for the hearts and minds of preschoolers.” The story is fascinating in that it explains just how much research media companies like Disney and Nickelodeon (Nick), a unit of Viacom conduct every year to learn more about the learning habits of kids and the learning goals of their parents. The article mentions that in the last 5-10 years a fundamental shift has occurred in what parents want most for their kids. In the past, “academic and cognitive skills” were at the top of the parent wish list for their kids. Today’s parents just want their little angels to be happy.

The article goes on to say that parents are weary of society’s over-emphasis on child rearing and just want kids that are happy and know how to get along.  No surprisingly, after years of focusing on teachable moments and producing shows that (allegedly) help kids learn, companies like Disney and Nick are now focusing on how their TV shows can help kids “develop emotionally.”

I have nothing against Disney or Nick. My children have watched plenty of both. Rather I was struck by how much this article reminded me of recent education policy conversations I’ve had about what it means to be college and career ready in a global society. Rigorous academic preparation is key, but the ability to communicate, work collaboratively in teams, to see and understand the connections between people, and to innovate are also essential skills for today’s world. As our friends at Disney and Nick are learning, today’s kids need to grow emotionally and socially as well as academically.

For me, understanding the connections between academics and the social/emotional life of students is never more important than it is in high school. As high school students prepare for the challenges of college and career in this day and age, their academic experiences need to be rigorous, relevant, and supported by strong and insightful relationships with teachers and other mentors. There are many excellent high schools that are doing their best to provide all students with a high school experience that truly does prepare them for college and career. Let’s hope the new Congress can work together to reauthorize ESEA so the hard work of preparing these students can continue moving forward.


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Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.