What We Value in U.S. Graduates

Americans Want Their Children to Grow to be Just Like Them - Only More Successful

Dave Brown is on a mission to inform the public
about US Public Schools. Have you ever asked your neighbor, "What do we value in our United States Graduates?"

A few years ago Alfie Kohn, a frequent contributor to meaningful education research, asked a group of parents of students from an elite independent school in Texas what their future goals were for their children. Kohn reported that the parents wanted their children to be "happy, balanced, independent, fulfilled, productive, self-reliant, responsible, functioning, kind, thoughtful, loving, inquisitive, and confident." Later that year he asked the same question of parents in a Minneapolis suburb and received similar responses. Graduates of America's high schools should represent what U. S. citizens value. It is clear what Americans value from what they experience in their communities.

U.S. graduates should reflect what adults spend their time doing each day of their lives, in both their spare time and as productive adults. High school graduates should mirror the way the United States organizes and conducts its government. They should reflect the work ethos that defines Americans and honor U.S. economic values. In other words, as adults, Americans want their children to grow to be just like them - only more successful.

The advantages that exist in the U.S. lifestyle can't occur without equity of educational opportunity (every resident is entitled to an education), and a great deal of success in educating so many adolescents until they reach adulthood. All high school seniors eventually feel the exhaustion of years of schooling - senioritis - and who can blame them? But the rewards of successfully encouraging a huge majority of students to hang around school for 13 years benefits all Americans.

Being Creative and Inventive

A creative mind and spirit are essential aspects of becoming a successful adult. Researchers in the late 1950s studied creative children and discovered that those who scored high on a creativity scale "grew up to be entrepreneurs, inventors, college presidents, authors, doctors, diplomats and software developers." If someone is particularly inventive, he or she wins the Nobel Prize for an invention and perhaps the development of a subsequent product that significantly affects the lives of others globally. Few honors mean as much to the American spirit as winning a Nobel Prize.

What do we value in US graduates? Find out more in Why Americas Public Schools are the Best Place for Kids

How Can Teachers Help to Produce Nobel Prize Winners?

How can teachers help to produce Nobel Prize winners? When schools' programs and courses and teachers' instructional processes encourage students' creative spirit and innovative thinking, schools produce Nobel Prize winners. A Chinese-born U.S. university professor describes the importance of valuing the creative spirit: "An innovation-driven society is driven by innovative people. Innovative people cannot come from schools that force students to memorize correct answers on standardized tests or reward students who excel at regurgitating dictated spoonfed knowledge." Thinking about, designing, building, and producing a better mousetrap defines truly educated Americans.

It takes curious, imaginative, and well-educated teachers to encourage youth to be creative and innovative. With the emphasis on testing that currently exists, it takes creatively insubordinate teachers who realize that they can't sacrifice genuine student growth by narrowly focusing on preparing students for standardized tests. Required teacher certification within states and the universities across the United States helps produce teachers who are savvy enough to use their critical analyses to make the "right" decision on how and what to teach American children.

What do we Value in U.S. Graduates? We want them to develop into "happy, balanced, independent, fulfilled, productive, self-reliant, responsible, functioning, kind, thoughtful, loving, inquisitive, and confident adults." We want them to become creative, inventive, hard working U.S. citizens.