Category Archives: education

Valedictorians be gone?

In some areas, nearly half of high schools have deleted the tradition of naming salutatorians and valedictorians.

Honestly, I was (and still am) proud of one of our daughters who ranked #1 out of more than 500 graduates. She worked unbelievably hard for that honor. I’m grateful her achievement was recognized.

Today, the anti-valedictorian movement has strong advocates. As a result, some schools award multiple students with top grade point averages. Other schools have an entire “row of honor.”

In today’s sport, appearance and popularity-driven schools, any recognition of excellent scholastic is worthy of the attention.


Soft skills vs hard skills

Students and teachers focus on a single goal this month: preparing for academic testing.

Test season comes around every year, even though a growing number of parents are starting to recognize children should also be taught soft skills during the school day.

Having integrity, perseverance and problem-solving skills are examples of soft skills. These character traits are critical to success in the adult world, but are only incidentally taught in school, where hard skills rule. An unfortunate truth.

Anti-intellectual reflection?

The “no homework, read instead” trend continues, even during this time of the school year in which students traditionally prepare intensely for standardized tests.

Some commentators view this shift as an awareness that current academics won’t prepare today’s students for the future. Others say flatly, “It’s another way to dumb down education.”

There is very little data on homework in the primary grades. For older students, homework tends to have minimal impact on academic achievement.

It’s a sticky issue, often overshadowed by emotions.


The importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) and STREAM (science, technology, robotics, engineering, math) have been well documented.

That message has gone home with students: statistics show that fewer than one in ten parents want their child to excel in the arts. And yet STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts, math) is suddenly being viewed more favorably than in the recent past.

Even coding supporters recognize that applying creativity and imagination are essential if future generations are going to resolve the weighty problems we are leaving behind for the next generation.

Real world lessons

Just a few years ago, I would have been amazed to overhear a mom give a very detailed explanation of the family composting system.

But I wasn’t surprised when that happened, recently.

Many parents have shifted their thinking. Instead of protecting their kids from realities, they are giving them a more grown-up understanding of real life issues.

This is not only happening at younger ages; this “realistic” teaching is often linked to suggestions of how to make our troubled world a better place.

And that’s all good.

A vote for the melting pot

I grew up on the streets of Chicago, where diversity was assumed. Fusion of cultures? Of course.

As the daughter of a Lutheran pastor, I looked forward to Jewish holidays. That’s when our public school population of 800 dropped down to a couple of classrooms – those days were such fun.

Today’s changing demographics bring reflections of our “melting pot” nation to children growing up far outside the city sidewalks where I learned to ride my bike. Social commentators call today’s increased diversity a sign of the “new normal”, but it simply offers our kids a close-up of the world, right outside the front door.

Customizing education

Customization has been embraced as a cultural value.

I guess it’s not surprising, then, that personalizing education is becoming more common.

This fall, an increased number of students will combine online learning with traditional instruction. This blended approach not only seems natural to parents who grew up with technology, but preferred, as our world becomes more digitally driven.

Alternative approaches to education are intended to meet the needs of students with varied learning styles. Now we’ll see if that happens.