Do your kids have a purpose?

May 27th, 2009 by Admin

Most discussions about the state of our schools are animated by serious concerns about the achievement gap, dropout rate, too many children being left behind, declining international competitiveness and more. Almost all the prescriptions for addressing the concerns involve such issues as teacher training and quality, innovation, standards, accountability, choice, and funding.

One missing link is whether we are doing enough to connect with the students themselves, to reach them in ways that truly engage them and inspire their full attention and best efforts. At the center of this is the question of purpose: Why are the children in school in the first place, and what path will they take after graduating?

In his new book, “The Path to Purpose: Helping Our Children Find Their Calling in Life,” William Damon bemoans the “sense of emptiness that has ensnared many young people in long periods of drift.” A leading scholar of human development and director of the Stanford Center on Adolescence, Mr. Damon has traced this emptiness and lack of purpose to an array of issues that inhibit the healthy development of youths and their successful transition into adulthood and work. Backed up by decades of work and fresh research, his findings “reveal a society in which purposefulness among young people is the exception rather than the rule.”

Mr. Damon says, “Purpose is a stable and generalized intention to accomplish something that is at the same time meaningful to the self and consequential for the world. … A true purpose is an ultimate concern. It is the final answer to the question of ‘Why? Why am I doing this? Why does it matter?’ Too often, the answer is, ‘I have no idea.’ ”

According to Mr. Damon’s research, (read more…)

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