It’s Not All Bad News! Evidence of Young People’s Commitment to a More Inclusive Global Community

It’s only when we give kids opportunities to think about and act upon their highest goals for society that they get a chance to display their initiative and wisdom. In spite of increasing concerns about bullying and youth disengagement there’s reason for optimism about today’s young people.

There are many students who take on leadership roles promoting meaningful social action. Parents and teachers can help teenagers to become proactive, encouraging them to engage in initiatives to help others, or to combat forms of injustice.

For example, high school seniors from across Canada have applied for the 2014 Wiesenthal Scholarships, established four years ago by the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre (FSWC), a non-profit human rights organization that promotes tolerance, social justice, and human rights for all.[i]  Applicants must demonstrate leadership skills and involvement in activities that support these ideals, and show evidence that they’ll continue to be purposeful in doing so as they pursue a post-secondary education. Students are eligible to receive one of several scholarships ranging from $1800 to $7200 to apply to their college or university studies and help them attain their goals.

I’ve spent considerable time reviewing applications. As a parent, educator, and co-author of a book about supporting children’s capacities,[ii] I’m no stranger to being moved and inspired by young people who strive to be all they can be. However, I was blown away by the quality of the scholarship applications that I reviewed, and by the ways in which applicants demonstratedthat they‘re making a constructive impact in communities far and wide. It was particularly heartening that so many students expressed an appreciation of the power of education, recognizing it as a means for positive change. It was wonderful to see the strength of their convictions as they endeavor to create a better world and a more inclusive global community. Many of these young people exhibit sophisticated understandings ofresponsibility, diversity, and freedom. They also put forth concerted effort—that is, a willingness to engage, empower, and envision.

These students have gone far beyond mandated community service requirements. And, they ‘re not alone. Indeed, many teenagers invest hundreds of hours leading or being actively involved in meaningful programs and movements within their schools and communities Youth-based efforts include involvement in anti-bullying campaigns, programs to help reduce poverty and hunger, initiatives that speak up for marginalized people and work to oppose hatred, and more.

Albert Einstein said, “Our morality in our actions can give beauty and dignity to life.” I commend all students who give of their time and effort to help others, and I hope that, increasingly, many more will follow their lead. May the voices and aspirations of these scholars resonate across the country and beyond, encouraging everyone to think, feel, and take positive action.


[ii] Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids by Dona Matthews and Joanne Foster (published by House of Anansi Press) is being released summer 2014.

ungifted: intelligence redefined

From Apathy to Possibility: Scott Barry Kaufman’s Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined

ungifted: intelligence redefined

What’s it like to be on the receiving end of well-meaning sympathy for your learning disabilities, accompanied by low academic and career expectations? How does it feel to want to engage in the challenging learning activities that your friends in the gifted class are experiencing, and to be told you never will? Cognitive psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman—scientific director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Imagination Institute—describes his personal journey through special education, and what it taught him about the nature of intelligence, talent, and creativity.

I’ve been thinking and writing about these issues for a few decades, but nonetheless, my copy of Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined is full of underlines and dog-eared pages where I’ve marked research findings, quotes, and ideas I hadn’t yet encountered or thought about in the way Kaufman describes them.  This book gave me fresh perspectives on many important ideas in my field and deeper understanding of many of the foundational concepts, as well as introducing me to research findings I hadn’t seen. Read more

the wonder of the ordinary

The Wonder of the Ordinary: A Crucible for Creativity, Talent, and Genius

the wonder of the ordinary

Parents can help their kids find their own particular kind of genius by encouraging their sense of wonder in the ordinary. You may or may not want your child to be a genius—an exceedingly rare and extraordinarily high achiever in a particular field—but you can help him develop his intelligence, creativity, and talents, by ensuring he has enough time for unstructured play and daydreaming.

In The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents, William Martin wrote, “Do you have agendas for your children that are more important than the children themselves? Lost in the shuffle of uniforms, practices, games, recitals, and performances can be the creative and joyful soul of your child. Watch and listen carefully. Do they have time to daydream? From your children’s dreams will emerge the practices and activities that will make self-discipline as natural as breathing.”

Read more

protect your child's playtime

Protect Your Child’s Playtime: It’s More Important than Homework, Lessons, and Organized Sports

protect your child's playtime

If you want your child to grow up to be confident, co-operative, intelligent, creative, and successful, protect his playtime from all the encroachments of life in a fast-paced, ambitious, technologically wired world.

Playtime is one of the most cost-effective investments a parent can make in a child’s education. It requires nothing more than time, space, and imagination. It does require your faith in her inner strength, her capacity to make her own fun; it requires stepping back and letting your child discover who she is, what she enjoys doing, and the ability to pursue her own interests.

While parental support for learning is enormously important to kids’ success, that can be tragically overdone. Instead of being filled with spontaneous improvisation and discovery, children’s time is increasingly being scheduled by adults and gobbled up by electronic devices. By robbing kids of ample time for imagination, exploration, and collaborative invention, we are taking away essential opportunities for them to develop the skills required for real achievement and fulfillment over time. Read more

every child can do math

Every Child Can Do Math: One Step at a Time, with Patience and an Open Mind

every child can do math
We all know people who can’t do math. They’re better to take the easy math courses and drop out of math as early as possible. That’s what most North American teachers and parents think should happen, and that’s what usually does happen. The kids become adults who ‘can’t do math,’ avoiding careers they might otherwise be interested in, often passing on their ‘poor math genes’ to their kids.

In his Junior Undiscovered Mathematical Prodigies (JUMP) program, John Mighton has demonstrated that everyone can do math, even kids labelled ‘slow learners’ or ‘learning disabled,’ even those who are many years behind their age and grade in mathematical achievement. Read more