I teach parenting classes and do some parent training at my local church and school.
As I've noted else where in this blog I was a play therapist in my earlier career and this volunteer work is an extension of that earlier Social Work stuff.
With that in mind I wanted to give some color commentary on the Love and Logic concept of 'contributions to the family'--chores to the old fashioned, and how that should affect character education in our classrooms. Essentially the Fayes note that chores are important for children to feel connected to the family and I couldn't agree more. That connectedness is what I wanted to write about.
The structure of chores-whatever structure one puts in place-is the lattice work of family and familial style relationships. Structure for the family is one hard won inch of ground every day, a bed time achieved and wake up time observed, a log or chore chart updated these are the things that are important in a family because they give parent and child a chance to fight, squabble, and grow close over a (mostly) dispassionate practice vs. over one another.
Through focusing on a job the child has the opportunity to express their genuine and authentic love for the family. The parent on the other hand has the gratification of seeing their child grow into self-sufficiency and in their awareness of themselves as part of a larger whole.
As chores are hung on the lattice work of structure they become grist for the relationship mill: Why do I have to do this chore, the hard chore? Why do I always have the hard chores? you didn't do your chores?-what should those consequences be? etc.
In describing this Eden of implementing chores with your kids I'm sure you are champing (it's really 'champing'- I always thought it was chomping, too) at the bit to get those arguments started! There's good with the bad-these same arguments will allow a million touch points to make your relationship with your kids better. Soon their chores will indeed contribute to the wellness of the family and in the meantime the structure provided will give you the platform to teach cause and effect & responsibility to your kids but also to enjoy them and their growth.
The final reason chores and structure are so important in the home is by virtue of the fact that chores in the home help build Agency in children. As I've posted elsewhere in this blog Agency is the concept that refers to the extent to which an individual controls their environment. Agency is about predictable, consistent, and reliable feedback such that the individual can take advantage of the prevailing circumstances to help themselves out. The more we can build agency in our kids the better. Chores are without question the best way to build agency at home (and probably at school, too but that's yet to be determined). In the Steven Pressfield sense of the word this is one of the highest callings of 'work' there is.
Growing agency is an important consideration for today's kids. Grit is the skill many schools and families are focused on when character education is considered but there's no clear formula for growing grit in kids. The path to growing agency in kids is clear. Score another point for agency/grit.
We’re entering a great age of measurement. I haven’t heard about this anywhere so caveat emptor.
Regardless, what I have heard a lot about is Big Data. We hear about lots of data-more data than we know what to do with and that is forcing us to rethink the type of data we keep, where we keep it and what we do with it.
Wearables, and implantables that are currently in the trough of disillusionment on the hype curve are the most interesting component of Big Data. You thought ‘Big Data’ was big-wait until we have all kinds of medical and personal wearables, implantables and other feedback devices tied to the myriad of physical responses the body makes to it’s environment. We’re going to have some fun then.
Apples’s newest headphones-look ma no wires-give us some clue to as to the position of wearables in the future. Accessing the apparent limitless store of data in our phones will, in the future, be as simple as pondering a question-now we have to ponder it out loud but in the future it doesn’t take too much of a leap to consider that this type of interaction with our phones will be silent. We’ll just think a thought and all of that thought thinking will turn into electrical stimulation and that electrical stimulation will be interpreted by the phone and it will respond appropriately.
In addition these wearables that are now currently somewhat out of favor will begin to be available to average joes like you and me for all kinds of uses. Historically we’ve tracked steps-did you walk 10fk steps? Did you go up or down the right amount of stairs--yawn. It’s measurement but nothing remarkable by today’s standards.
But soon-and not too very far off-we’re going to be able to have realtime feedback on some more stuff that really matters-calories ingested and burned, o2 and respirations, heart rate, hormone manufacture and release all a result of wearables and implantables. Soon we’ll have the tools to measure things, glean insights, and use that in problem resolution in ways that in past we’ve only dreamed of. The best example I can give you is from this blog. One of the reasons Freud’s theories have remained theories is that proving up or measuring things like the death drive and the drive to life have been so difficult to do. Measuring neuronal response to in vivo stimuli (stuff that happens in the body in real time) has never been an option. If it were Freud would have used it as would subsequent investigators and now we might be having a different discussion about things like apoptosis (cell death), how to regulate it, and how it is related to behavior. As it is these things are on the horizon-hence the age of measurement.
Freud’s difficult to decipher theories won’t be the only thing we’ll measure. Average Joes will be able to measure their caloric intake and o2, investigators will be able to fly hundrends of drones into a weather system and measure the individual forces to find out what’s really happening. Emotions can be inferred from internal and external behavior and fed back to an individual who can then take that information and piece it together with their experience.
The creative uses of wearable and implantable technology coupled with the ubiquity of cloud computing and good old ingenuity & curiosity will lead to a tremendous amount of understanding in our world.
In so many ways our understanding of the world has hinged on our ability to measure all kinds of aspects of it in the past and now we’re entering an age where average people will be faced with measurement tasks that they have heretofore not concerned themselves with. But that’s where all of the new dogs will thrive.
Big Data, now largely about B2B and B2C predictive analytics that help those in power make the best decisions possible is growing into the era of Big Measurement. A time when we can all measure the things that are important to us and get the kind of idiosyncratic answers that will spark tremendous amounts of deep, meaningful learning.
Steven Pressfield has written a remarkable book about how to stick with anything meaningfully important and do the hard, lonely, slow, and painstaking work necessary to bring dreams into reality.
I won’t rework the entire book here-read it, you'll be very happy you did. What I'd like to do today is to give some consideration to Pressfield's ideas and hopefully amplify on those ideas with some thoughts of my own.
Pressfield gives a great deal of attention to the concept of resistance. Resistance is the force that serves to bedevil the creator at every turn. It convinces the creator that his/her work is unimportant impossible, silly, it should be abandoned. Pressfield then sets this force in opposition to the muses or the genius of the universe-God or something similar.
Robert McKee in the preface to War of Art notes that Pressfield's 'resistance' is a recapitulation of Freud's concept of the 'death drive' or 'Thanatos'. Most everyone knows about Eros and libido this is essentially the drive to live, thrive, and procreate.
Many who are aware of the drive to live in Freud's work are unaware of the drive to death. Although Freud did not initially postulate the death drive others in Freudian psychoanalysis did and he explained the concept in the book 'Why War'.
So Pressfield’s highly readable and practical book seems to be something of a redux of classical analytic thinking. A drive to live, love, and create, versus a drive to death and destruction, one that compels us back to dirt.
Pressfield’s work makes the struggle between the forces of life and the forces of death very real and while the concept of life force and death force can be argued, minimized, ridiculed, etc, the strength of our experience validates Pressfield's work.
In a very real way Pressfield writes about the daily struggle we all face between life and death, and, instead of the life-and-death struggle occurring only when two people are fighting for a gun or a knife it's clear that this same struggle occurs daily as we struggle to live our lives in ways that validate support and encourage life. When we do that we win. We can take a deep breath and know we've done our part in supporting life in making our effort to bring something that only exists in the infinite to the time bound world.
The urgency that such an understanding brings is profound and I'm grateful Pressfield grappled with this excellent book to bring it forth from the Infinite.
When my now 11 year old 6th grader was ending his 4th grade experience he had to take the "STAAR TEST". It's the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness, a high stakes exam that might result in a student not moving up to the next grade-for him 5th. He was VERY nervous about failing and perhaps not moving on with his friends. I got the impression his teeth might rattle out of his head-he was this way off and on for weeks. Although we talked about the fact that he had done his homework, had brought home good grades, and had always performed pretty well on tests he was only slightly assuaged.
At about this time-perhaps a few weeks before that-he was to take a standard math test. It was a rather lengthy one that required some study on his part. Prior to him taking it I asked how he felt about the material--"pretty confident!" was his enthusiastic reply. As you may have guessed he came home with a 50 on the test he felt "pretty confident" about but he passed the STAAR test.
This experience left me thinking about how we teach and assess our kids. I couldn't tell him all of what was going through my head at the time but 20+ years as a Social Services and IT pro in education had taught me that one of the strongest and most persistent predictors of academic performance was socio-economics and for good or ill he was in pretty good shape on that score with middle class parents in a middle class school. Statistically, this alone suggested he would pass the STAAR. However, Duncan also had very few absences (another big predictor), hung around with other kids who also did pretty well in school, and both his parents had advanced degrees. Statistically, he was most likely going to do OK.
One thing Duncan didn't have, however, was a realistic confidence in his abilities. When he felt 'pretty confident' it wasn't based on much other than school and homework. While he got a good deal of feedback from his teachers and parents it wasn't enough. He needed a lot more feedback to allow him to realistically assess how well he understood the information and when he didn't have a good understanding he needed a way to communicate that to his teacher who could then fill in the gaps for him.
Duncan's class has 23 to 25 students in it and managing a class of that many students can be at the very least a challenging task. More often than not it's simply herculean on a daily basis. To provide feedback to the tune of 60 to 80 times a week on math problems is simply not possible but it's what Duncan needed to ensure he understood all of what was before him.
What was clear to me was that 1) we could use technology to provide the critical feedback that was necessary for both the teacher and student and 2) we could use that feedback, along with other available data, to make ongoing statistically appropriate predictions regarding Duncan's understanding. And, in so doing, we could reduce and in the future hopefully eliminate the stress inducing high stakes summative testing with low key, ongoing, formative assessment that would still give an accurate assessment of his understanding. This approach could help target Duncan's area of need and communicate that need to his teacher in such a way that student centered learning could be achieved with very little effort on the part of the teacher. In addition Duncan could get the kind of feedback that would contribute to true confidence and understanding. For a quick explanation take a look at the innovative STEM assessment video on this web site and let me know your thoughts in the comments below!