It’s graduation time! Celebrations of educational accomplishments are both appropriate and welcome in June…but only if they are warranted.
Have you noticed that just about anywhere folks talk or write about the importance of literacy in becoming well-educated they always add the word skills after their focus? It is common when one discusses “reading,” regarded as the lynchpin of education, to refer to reading skills or comprehension skills.
I’d like to invite you to consider that while skills are indeed an important part of learning to read and of conducting oneself as an educated person, reading skills are only a small portion of what needs to be taught, nurtured, practiced and applied. If students are to be prepared to graduate and lead fully literate, optimally productive lives, they need to develop much more than skills.
Now, I’m not trying to pile on more work for concerned parents and dedicated educators. I’m actually interested in lightening the load they carry by sharing it with fully invested others.
Those others include:
1. The larger community within which literacy learners live (and as graduates will either make a contribution or not) and most of all,
2. The learners themselves whose personal focus, energy and power must be applied throughout their school experience for them to become true graduates.
Graduates should be avid readers. Avid readers orient to any print that comes into view as a possibility for personal delight and growth. Every book, magazine, newspaper or correspondence we encounter is a more or less successful tease that entices us to consider including its riches into our life’s ongoing education.
THAT orientation of actively seeking out new possibilities—a characteristic of a fully literate and educated family or community—must be the legitimate and inarguable goal of all efforts to raise children prepared to be graduated to higher learning or to entry into the marketplace. That goal cannot be reached by merely teaching skills.
Reading skills are certainly necessary for continuing to grow in all areas of knowledge and life, but absolutely not sufficient if we wish to avoid graduates who in future may be able to basically read and write about science, history, mathematics and all the rest…but actually never do and probably never will.
So, parents and educators can recruit others in the community to engage with their kids around what we and they are reading. And we, the community members, must look for opportunities to engage with young readers. This public valuing of books and reading for personal growth is essential if we are to instill the value of lifelong learning in our graduates. Fully graduating takes a sense of belonging in a village of learners.
Further, and most importantly, we must ensure that all graduates have a burning and enduring sense of self-determination, fully participating in their own educations, graduating to owning their own lifelong personal growth and success.
Absent community-relatedness and personal autonomy, many skill-only graduates will quickly grind to a halt in their learning and risk spending their lives watching the world progress on into the future without them.
That’s not graduating.