Parenting Kids in the Conceptual Age
It is my belief that the focus of our parenting and education system has to change and create space for language, presentation and interpersonal skill development. This urgency was voiced loudly to me when a CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) student who scored 100 in English the class twelve board exams stated awkwardly in an email to Outlook: “It all depends on how one pen down the ideas… The flow in the language helped me fetched marks.”
The criteria for success have changed. We have moved from the knowledge era to the creative age. Simply ‘knowing things’ is not enough. We have Google to assist us with its wealth of facts, data and information. Getting a 100 per cent score in a written paper on the recital of facts, the interpretation of data or the resolution of a mathematical problem is important, but is not enough if your child is unable to present this knowledge in a manner that others will understand. Moreover, he must be able to interact and communicate with others every day. The fact that the topper who wrote to Outlook could not compose a grammatically correct sentence is a scathing remark on how our education system works.
Kids today face the biggest contradiction of all times. They are expected to remember huge amounts of information for answering their papers, when they know that information is just a mouse-click away. They don’t see any meaning in retaining so much information except to achieve high marks or grades. They understand that the storage of information, a left-brained skill, is being done by machines. They then question why they must do this mundane task.
Read about what school could look like in the future.
How shall we as parents, teachers and educators respond to our children in a meaningful way so that they don’t view their education as a purposeless, meaningless ritual? We need to realize that there is value in encouraging the development of the child’s right brain; it is here that our children will develop the creative ability to recognize patterns from the disparate and seemingly unrelated data that they see, hear and read about. They need to realize that they have the ability to find a unique solution to a problem or think of an idea no one has thought about yet.
This is the Conceptual Age, the age of pattern recognition that allows one to take leaps. It is the age to bring about massive changes through new ideas, exciting solutions, as well as innovative ways to communicate and be connected. Think about Uber, Airbnb, Facebook or Twitter.
The complexities of life are increasing with rapidly changing business trends. Industry stakeholders are now demanding employees who have specific expertise and resources that go beyond their subject knowledge or skill sets. A recent study shows that emotional reasoning is as important, if not more, as the intelligence quotient in leadership roles. The ability of a leader to understand what motivates his team and what they value is an essential element in successful leadership. Brain research conducted on the best strategic planners of various companies showed that the emotional part of their brains worked at higher speeds than the intellectual part of the brain.
We too need to hone the right-brained creative skills in our kids so that we develop a rich and colourful Indian canvas for new and exciting ventures to grow and blossom. We must become more than a nation of skilled target achievers, where the focus is only on the achievement of excellence in technological, pragmatic and transactional spheres.
Contrary to popular belief, high personal achievement has very little to do with IQ, life circumstances or luck! Take for example, the great French sculptor Auguste Rodin, who came from a poor family and was rejected from art school three times. Despite putting up with constant rejection, he bounced back time and again, using each failure and disappointment as an opportunity to fuel his talents and passions. There are many examples like him. Albert Einstein wasn’t able to speak until he was almost four years old and his teachers had written him off. Michael Jordon was told to leave his school’s basketball team.
A study conducted by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation and Stanford Research Centre says that 85 per cent of one’s success at the workplace is attributed to soft skills and only 15 per cent to technical skills. Many CEOs will tell you that their highest performing employees are not necessarily their technically brightest.
Our target focus is to prepare our children and youth for a successful life. The success of tomorrow will depend on how our children ultimately make use of the knowledge and information they embrace today. How we are educating our children may prove to be more important than what we are educating them. Are we teaching them to tap their innate greatness? The knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary for success in this new age are different from what was previously required. That is why at school and home we need to address these changes in a careful and purposeful manner.
This is an edited extract from Lina Ashar’s Drama Teen: A Cool-Headed Guide for Parents and Teenagers, available now through Penguin Random House India.