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Common Core and the Competition

There’s a lot to be said about the current version of education reform and Common Core. I’m all in favor of getting rid of No Child Left Untested. I believe that all children should become fluent readers and writers and well-versed in math because these are skills that will help them succeed in school and, more importantly, in life. I’m convinced that what will separate kids who achieve their potential from those who don’t will be their communication, critical thinking, collaborative learning and problem solving skills and their creativity. Doing whatever we can to help students acquire these skills will serve them (and us) well and it needs to happen soon.

My fear isn’t so much about whether Common Core will be implemented. It’s about how powerful the competition is. I’m concerned that so many kids (and adults) are addicted to their smartphones, that an incoming text takes precedence over a face-to-face conversation and that three out of four students spend more hours a week watching television and playing video games than in school. I worry that millions of kids will still live sedentary, isolated lifestyles; that on-line gaming competition will win out over collaborative problem-solving; and that interaction with avatars will be more exciting than social relationships with real people.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m very grateful for advances in technology. I use LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. I send and respond to e-mails and text messages. I occasionally play internet backgammon. I listen to music on Pandora. I navigate reasonably well on my i-Phone and i-Pad. I was recently interviewed on Huffington Post Live and I’ve appeared on numerous webinars. I appreciate the convenience and the easy access to information.

What I’m worried about is not what students have, but what they’re missing. All of the research shows us that children become happy, productive, successful adults when they discover their purpose in life, work well with and do good for others, have a high level of emotional intelligence and live a healthy lifestyle. Common Core has the capacity to help with this, but it won’t count for much if the competition for student’s time and interests proves too compelling.

Above all, this is why comprehensive afterschool programs matter and why their quality counts: education reform needs a powerful ally. Kids need ongoing opportunities to communicate with each other and with caring, supportive adults; to learn how to work together to achieve more than they could individually; to think critically and creatively; to ignite their passion for learning; and to have more fun doing these things than anything else.

As I’m finishing a breakfast of Greek yogurt, granola and coffee, I’m reminded of how important it is for all of us keep co-creating the future that children and young people deserve. We’re making a bigger difference than we think – and we can and must do more by being the partner that the education community desperately needs!

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