Excerpts for Megaskills : Building Our Children's Character and Achievement for School and Life

Excerpt from Chapter 1
MegaSkills and Our Children

Raising and Educating Children Today
Being a parent has never been easy, but it wasn't always this hard either. No longer can most of us command, "Do this or do that" and expect our kids to just obey, no questions asked.

The twenty-first century is a time for thinking learners, and that's what our children will have to be. While children may not be listening (as we're told they once did) to their elders, they're listening to advertisers, to peers, and to others who may not have their best interests at heart and who may not be offering the best advice. That's why it's especially important for children to have what it takes to build their self-discipline.

At the same time, as parents, we have to put across the sense of standards and limits that children need for stability, for reassurance, and for the real freedom that comes with selfdirection.

This is no easy assignment, and that's why MegaSkills are so important.

In the midst of the headlines about the Information Age and the Computer Revolution, it can get very confusing to figure out what is really important in our children's education. How we wish we knew all the answers right now.

It's an exciting time and an anxious one. In many ways, we're caught in the middle-we don't know all the answers and we don't even know all the questions.

There's long been a saying that the only two things we can count on are death and taxes. Today I add a third: change. Around us and to us.

Coping with change takes a new and higher level of competence and understanding. We have to deal with the expected and the unexpected. Knowing the level of change we face today, we can only imagine how much more our children will face in the years ahead.

Some experts tell us to get computers and all will be well. I wish I could believe that we can solve our education problems that easily. There's no doubt that computers open up brave new worlds for many students. But they are still machines. While machines can get us to places faster, we still have to know where we are going.

MegaSkills: The Inner Engines of Learning
In school, test scores tell us that students today are scoring about as well as they did in the 1970s. With increased technology demanding more know-how and increased global competition demanding more effort, what was good enough for the seventies just isn't good enough anymore.

In the workplace, employers are alarmed. Today's graduates, they say, are only marginally prepared for job success. The problem is not just literacy. Students have trouble giving their best to their work and in having disciplined work habits.

At home, parents see children struggling to deal with the growing complexity and often overwhelming choices in their daily lives. Younger and younger children face emotional and dangerous problems such as sex, drugs, and AIDS. They are asked to be grown up when they are still children.

It is generally agreed that children need certain basic skills (usually called the three R's) in order to succeed. But for children to keep learning basic skills at school, they need to learn another important set of basics at home. "MegaSkills" are our children's inner engines of learning. Though reinforced in the classroom, they get their power from the home.

I know it's fashionable to talk about megathis and mega-that, and because of this, in some ways, I hesitate to use the word "MegaSkills." But when I think about what it really takes for children to learn and use the skills they learn, when I think about what it takes to resist the temptations of taking drugs or dropping out of school, I think about attitudes and abilities that are bigger than ordinary skills. I think about confidence and motivation, perseverance and problem solving. And the word "MegaSkill" to define these seems appropriate and right. A MegaSkill, like confidence, is a long-lasting, achievement-enhancing skill. It's what makes possible the use of the other skills that we learn. MegaSkills keep children reading long after they learn to decode the alphabet. A MegaSkill is like gas to make the car go.

This book explains how to help children develop these MegaSkills:
Confidence: feeling able to do it
Motivation: wanting to do it
Effort: being willing to work hard
Responsibility: doing what's right Initiative: moving into action
Perseverance: completing what you start
Caring: showing concern for others
Teamwork: working with others
Common Sense: using good judgment
Problem Solving: putting what you know and what you can do into action
Focus: concentrating with a goal in mind
Respect: showing good behavior, courtesy, and appreciation

These aren't the only MegaSkills, but they play a strong role in determining success in school and beyond. They don't drop from the sky and land on a lucky few. They can be taught at home by parents, even today. They are the values that undergird our work ethic, our national character, and our personal behavior.

Much as I admire academic prowess, and I do, research has shown that adult productivity and happiness are the results of more than academic competency. The happiest and most successful adults are those who possess MegaSkills qualities and, of course, a sense of humor. I can teach MegaSkills, but as to the sense of humor, now that's really hard!

We don't know for sure whether our children are learning today what they will need tomorrow, but we do know that children will need the skill and ability to take what they know and put it together in new ways to solve new problems.

The academic term for this is "transfer." To be useful for the twenty-first century and beyond, education has got to transfer. Little is really known now about what technical skills will be needed. We don't know the specific situations our children will face or even the machines they will use. What we do know is that our children will have to be able to use and adapt what they learn today. They need knowledge enhancing skills, good any year and any place. They need MegaSkills.