School is starting for millions of college students and school children across the United States and around the world. Unfortunately, 72 millions youths throughout the globe do not have access to basic education while millions of students in developed countries, such as the United States, lack access to quality education, which means their ability to access opportunities, which might be available to them, will be limited. They will, in turn, be less likely to prosper in life. That said, a lack of quality education does more than simply deprive students of marketable skill sets; it also stunts them as people.
Hard skills like reading and arithmetic are generally considered the fundamental blocks of a quality education; however, schooling also provides a social learning environment. If we fail to address the need to create better “socializers” in education, society misses out on the “soft skills” that are needed to resolve social issues and conflicts. Given the growing civil discontent and the numerous armed conflicts seen around the world, there is a clear need for community leaders who have the “soft skills” that allow them to develop novel solutions to the world’s problems. The word needs more people with strong character to tackle the challenges of the modern age.
Developing soft skills is what helps us become strong, healthy individuals. Without the ability to effectively interact with others, resolve conflicts, and develop healthy relationships, an individual cannot be a constructive member of society. Many youths, especially those in poor and/or abusive households/communities struggle to overcome their circumstances to learn these skills from role models on their own. Because education exists to make people more “functional” in life, it must include a mission beyond academics. Accordingly, education must involve training students in soft skills that help develop them as healthy people.
Defining who we are as people happens on a daily basis. Education does not simply provide us with the knowledge and skill sets we need to compete in the economy. Our education at home, on the streets, and in the classroom helps shape who we are. Better educated people can create healthier lifestyles, because they understand the need for a healthy environment. As such, character development must be an integral part of any quality education. Without strong characters, students will struggle to overcome their circumstances as they peruse their academic career and seek opportunities to utilize the hard skills they have learned. Unfortunately, a lack of character development can lead students down the wrong path very easily.
Unfortunately, the sad truth is that many public schools are not good places for students to grow up in. One solution is a greater focus on soft skills from preschool up to high school. When people lack proper conflict resolution skills, which is true for most youngsters who are just learning, conflicts tend to escalate toward violence. This makes it very difficult to establish and maintain healthy relationships, which is true for many adults as well. Schools are sub-communities of larger communities, thus students with conflicting personalities and backgrounds are pressed into an environment where they have to deal with conflicts. As such, bad schools are an opportunity to address society’s broader woes.
Although schools should not preach to their students about what makes an individual a socially healthy person, an education, which fosters healthy lifestyles and pro-social behavior, can shape better people and better communities. Without a focus on character development, an education is only a collection of skills and knowledge. Educating students, so they learn how to resolve conflicts and behave more responsibly, is best done in an environment where they are forced to solve the problem or accept the consequences of failing to do so, i.e. school. After all, it is far wiser to teach students to be healthier people in school than it is to unleash them on a world where there is no teacher to offer guidance.
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