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  • Terry Wigmore

Why Didn't They Teach Me That In School?

Curriculum is important, but who decides what is important for all of us to learn?

For the most part, educational researchers and academics make those choices for all of us. We (the public) are advised that this is what our kids will learn (starting with the basics of the 3R's - Reading, 'Riting and 'Rithmetic), and this is how they will learn (by doing lots of rote and repetition and seat work) and this is how they will be measured (by standardized tests).

That approach may have been true decades ago, but education has, hopefully, moved beyond those traditional concepts. We have embraced differentiated learning, multiple intelligence theory, individualized learning styles and celebrate success in creative ways.

Still, there is much that we need to pass on to our kids that is not coming from their time spent in the big boxes; the large intimidating brick and mortar structures of institutional learning, though there may be individual classes and teachers who do offer this kind of refreshing learning experience. That kind of learning, with a focus on character development, is what I refer to in this blog.

My wife picked up a book for my youngest daughter, Why Didn't They Teach Me That In School, by Cary Siegel (2018), and that book is the source for what I'm writing about here. I just glanced through the book and began to realize that it encapsulates a lot of the essential life lessons that, as parents, most of us hope our kids pick up during their school years. The book is easy to read and is comprised of 99 life-lessons, or principles, that the author considers just as important to the development of our children as the approved curriculum. Most of these 99 principles are things we hope our kids are learning about being a nice person, one who gets along well with others, as well as learning to be a successful person, though perhaps they are not learning these ideas directly, but as a by-product of the educational process we call school.

Here are few concepts from the very first lesson: "The P's":

1. Be Passionate and Have a Positive Attitude about everything you do.

2. Persistence and Perseverance will take you very far in life.

3. Be Proactive and don't Procrastinate.

4. Plan and Prioritize your "to-do" lists.

5. Be Punctual - All the time!

6. Proof-read everything you put your name to.

7. Politeness always pays off.

8. Develop strong people skills.

9. Party - celebrate your accomplishments

Right from the start, these principles grabbed my attention because they tackle building character, not knowledge. I'm all for academic content and building a level of general and subject-specific knowledge, but these 99 principles are the real gold, without which all the other academic stuff is just an accumulation of, well, stuff. It is character development that separates and distinguishes those who make a difference, and those who help others make a difference too.

I may write about more of Siegel's collection of principles in future posts, but I do recommend his book, even if it just affirms things you already believe, know and practice in your own life.

What are some principles that you would add? Send along an e-mail through the contact page on the site. Perhaps some of your ideas could be included in an addendum to this blog. Stay tuned :)

Why Didn't They Teach Me That In School? by Cary Siegel (2018)

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