Written by Patty Pearcy, President & CEO of SimplyFun
Ever thought about doing a GAP Analysis on your kiddo? Probably not, and why would you? Well, if you consider that our educational systems are tightly focused on a limited number of topics in school, you might ask yourself whether you are going to end up with a kid that is well-rounded to face the many challenges ahead in today's world …or not.
If you look through famous quotes commenting on the pros and cons of being well-rounded…likely from a well-rounded education, you might question if being well-rounded has value in today's world? Before you can answer that question though, you need to step back and define what you mean by well-rounded.
How We Once Defined a Well-Rounded Education
In classical times a woman was well-rounded if she could paint, do fine needlework, read a foreign language, and manage a household. A man was defined as well-rounded if he could ride a horse, understood money, dabbled in politics or philosophy, and occasionally took an elegant turn on the dance floor. Now these are exaggerated statements on the societal view of what made someone well-rounded at the time. It seems crazy by today's standards, doesn't it? But that is what people aspired to in those days.
Has our Definition of a Well-Rounded Education Shifted in Response to the Growing Emphasis on Technology and STEM?
Let's jump ahead to today, where the concept of a liberal arts education (which has been defined as a well-rounded education) is no longer in fashion. All eyes are on a STEM (science, technical, engineering, math) education, where learning coding concepts is now considered a 'well-rounded' skill to have starting in elementary school. In fact, all the STEM disciplines are now getting heavy emphasis in education and, in many cases, at the expense of classes in history, geography and literature.
Budget cuts in many districts have already taken out classes like art, music, and foreign languages. We've certainly bolstered up the technical side for our kiddos, but what may we have lost in the process?
Among many thought leaders today is a concern that we have moved away from the true meaning of being well-rounded, or rather have defined it to be a very narrow space that is all about dealing with the very fast pace of technology and science.
Kids are siloed early into technology with an eye to making their future a guaranteed success by focusing on a technical field. This is akin to parents wanting kids to be teachers, doctors or lawyers in the 60's and 70's (at least to prepare for law school, you could start with a BA in Political Science)! When did being well-rounded become a liability rather than an asset?
What is the True Definition of Being Well-Rounded?
Let’s begin with a definition. If you query the phrase ‘well rounded’ you get something that looks like this:
- (Of an education) covering well the necessary areas of instruction.
'Well-rounded' can mean different things depending on the context. It can refer to something that is rounded in shape or well-developed. It can also refer to a person who has many different skills, abilities, or areas of knowledge. In the context of a curriculum, it can mean many-sided or comprehensive. Additionally, it can refer to something that is well-balanced and not too much or too little of any one part.
I particularly love the last line of this definition….'not too much or too little of any one part.' Kids used to matriculate through school learning bits and pieces of everything. English, math, science, history, and government, plus a little art, music, home economics, and shop thrown in. The goal was to expose kids to all kinds of stimuli to create curiosity but also to build a generalist skill set that would be useful across their lifetime. It also gave kids time to decide on their future, a time to sample and explore.
So, I was a bit stunned when someone recently shared with me that whatever we needed to know about a specific application we were installing could be found on the internet. We didn't need to worry about solving problems, because the answers already existed and were at our fingertips.
Well great. But how boring is that? And really, is the number one life skill to have in today's world the ability to conduct a successful search on Google? No need to understand how anything works, how it is relevant, or how it can impact others. Just check out the wiki listing or watch a YouTube video? Or how to nicely ask for someone's help?
The bot you are talking to online doesn't really care about niceties; just answer the question by selecting one of these options or take one of these steps. What are our minds really needed for then?
Big Problems in the World Need Big Solutions That Often Have Not Been Thought of Yet.
While many of the world's issues require technical solutions, those solutions cannot be implemented unless we can communicate (and I'm not talking about instant messaging here.) Communication is the foundation of humanity. Even cultures that did not develop a written language relied on storytelling, art, and other methods to explain their world and capture their history. What are we going to do in a world that is solely focused on just the technical? How many budding Shakespeare's will be lost?
So, parents, this is why a GAP analysis is important! To help you know how to supplement what isn't being learned and keep your child's knowledge broad and opportunities ahead wide.
How To Assess if Your Child is Getting a Well-Rounded Education
Here's my recommendation on how to perform a GAP analysis (see footnote) on your kiddo to get back to raising a well-rounded kid with a well-rounded education:
- List all the topics that your kiddo is learning in school and then ask what is missing.
- List anything that a teacher has said your kiddo should work on or that they seem to be behind in.
- Make an assessment of your kiddos' resilience level by grading each of the 7 C's of resilience (see footnote below) from 1 to 10 (with 10 as great ability) to see areas that need bolstering.
- Make a list of topics your kiddo is interested in…travel, dinosaurs, weird facts, animals, etc.
Once you have your lists, then narrow them down to the categories you want to focus on by picking one or more items from each list above.
For example: Your child has a curiosity for places yet their geography education in school is limited. The teacher also says your kiddo is a bit behind in reading and needs extra support with control and coping skills.
The answer now is to find a board game that the family can play together to work at the age-appropriate reading level, with cool facts about places! Yes, they are out there. You don't need to specifically look for the 7 C's in the game as most board games are chock full of them. Board game play is just a microcosm of the real-life use of the 7 C's.
The final step is just to sit down and play! Gameplay is your partner in this effort! You don't need to share that you have an agenda behind the scenes. That's for sure the way to not get buy-in. Just find the game, bring it home, and start playing. You may be surprised about the progress you make with just a few hours of gameplay.
And after each game, you can look in the mirror with a little smile and think, I just took one more step to building a great future for my kid… laughing all the way through it with gameplay as my well-rounded partner!
Footnote: Gap Analysis - A gap analysis is a method of assessing the performance of a business unit to determine whether business requirements or objectives are being met and, if not, what steps should be taken to meet them. A gap analysis may also be referred to as a needs analysis, needs assessment, or need-gap analysis.
Footnote: 7 C's of resilience - Dr. Ginsburg in his book, Building Resilience in Children and Teens published by the American Academy of Pediatrics shares seven' C' words that encompass the full skill set known as resiliency. They are:
-Competence – knowing how to handle situations
-Confidence – believing in ones abilities
-Control – knowing personal decisions can impact outcomes
-Coping – managing stress and disappointment
-Connection – building family ties and sense of community
-Character – building a sense of right and wrong
-Contribution – giving back to make the world a better place
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