Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Minutes Start Ticking

I have an 8th grade son. After having lunch with Bob Compton, executive producer of the documentary film, 2 Million Minutes, I attended my son's school athletic banquet that evening. It was a lovely, uplifting event. But, I must confess that, with a sense of a limited time window, I sat there and tallied the collective hours people in the room had devoted to our cultural priority of sports. Was this a productive use of time and talent? The guilt-assuaging thought for me was oh well, this has been a learning and character-building pursuit in middle school, and now, it is time to get serious. With the end of 8th grade, my son's 2 million minutes start ticking.

My husband and I are starting to talk about the idea of our son getting his GED so that we can direct his learning for the next four years instead of following the state mandated guidelines. Some of the reasons that we are beginning to think about this option seriously are grounded in our belief that one's success in life is found in the intersection of talent or strengths and passion. And, that this is true for children as well as adults. Our son's strengths include conceptual math (although he is terrible at arithmetic), problem-solving, and oral and visual communication. Also, we believe that there is extreme value in deep learning as opposed to a survey or surface learning of a lot of subjects. We also know that our son finds school constraining and irrelevant. He has a very hard time understanding why he has to memorize so many things that he could just google and find in seconds. Millions of kids feel as he does, which has led to the new R's of education: rigor, relationship, and relevance. While the Gates Foundation is purporting the new R's, they are based on the big picture thinking of Dennis Littky.

Another contributing factor to our decision is that our son is dyslexic. This makes reading and writing and memorizing very difficult for him. And, it makes him an outlayer in the system. We believe his dyslexia makes him hardwired to be great at other things. In New York Times article, Tracing Business Acumen To Dyslexia, Julie Logan, professor of entrepreneurship at the Cass Business School in London, found that more than a third of the entrepreneurs she surveyed identified themselves as dyslexic. Logan reports, “We found that dyslexics who succeed had overcome an awful lot in their lives by developing compensatory skills... dyslexics are extraordinarily creative about maneuvering their way around problems.”

Our decision will take some time and consideration. One thing our son will do in the meantime is to start the deep learning. He will start working on more higher conceptual math via the internet through Tutorvista. And, we will start quantifying the requirements for acceptance to engineering or polytech programs. If we can find an end-around his weaknesses and what he deems as torture, we will walk that path.

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