Our kids are at a crossroads of societal change and employment preparedness. This article explores upcoming challenges and new educational paradigms to best prepare the next generation for what's ahead.
*This article is about a seven minute read. If you're interested in a quick infographic summary, click here.
When it comes to the future well-being of our kiddos, the path of success seems simple and straightforward. Right?
First, they get good grades in grammar school and are propelled into advanced placement classes in high school. During high school, their noteworthy GPA, extracurricular engagement, and volunteer hours create the building blocks of stellar college applications that propel them into higher education. Finally, through choice of major in college, they find the focus and alignment for their eventual career practice and industry. And they live happily ever after.
...not so fast.
As I connect the dots between today’s students and tomorrow’s brave new world, it’s clear that the secret ingredient to success will be their characteristics that are intrinsically “human.”
Indeed, the future is here. But surely schools are adapting to this brave new world, right?
So then we bifurcate our kids' development through life itself?
The advent of the interconnectivity, influence, and ubiquitous consumption that has come with web 2.0 has shattered our previous notions of a controlled growth environment.
So, case presented: traditional schooling is not equipping our kiddos with the emotional, cognitive, and social skills that they need to thrive in the future, and we’re losing control over the environment that was meant to provide the life lessons for that very development. Even worse, the influence of web 2.0 is creating depression among those without a strong internal and external foundation. But the purpose of this article is not to lament the realities of current schooling deficiencies, nor the pervasive depression affecting a generation.
The development gap can be addressed, so let’s start at the core. Sure, we want our kids to live with confidence in decision making, but confidence is not a core element that can just be manifested. Instead, it’s a derivative of something else. By the same equation, emotional intelligence in social relationships does not appear out of thin air, but instead this is also derivative.
So what’s at the core?
Identity, community, and integrity are the priority core elements that we should consider when seeking to build a strong internal and external foundation for the next generation:
Identity: The way that we define ourselves, inclusive of our history, lineage, culture, and most importantly, our value system.
Community: The support network around us, our awareness of the network, and our reciprocity back to the network.
Integrity: Living by the code that has been determined by our identity, inclusive of value system, and helpful to community.
These skills and assets serve as the cognitive foundation in an increasingly complicated world. They provide a reciprocal support network that grows and evolves with the times, and they ensure that growth and success are done ethically and are in the best interests of the whole, rather than the individual.
Let’s take a reframed look at our brave new world.
With all this reinforcement, there is now an increased intentionality in the way our kids do relationship building, decision making, and planning; it’s a game changer.
And here’s the best news: your kids want this.
Let’s start with programs.
Community-based programs like heritage camps, leadership camps, and cultural exchanges build understanding and experiences in all three competencies. Awareness of heritage fortifies cultural identity, and leadership development builds emotional intelligence & integrity. Also note this is not a one-and-done thing. True human development needs year-on-year reinforcement to truly take hold. You'll need to enroll your kids in these programs annually.
Within the Japanese American community there are a number of community-based programs for consideration. In Southern California, there’s of course my former life, Kizuna, which offers an entire continuum of programs for K-12, higher education, and even adults. The Rising Stars Youth Leadership Program has perfected its formula for high school leadership development with two decades of graduates to prove it.
Additional local heritage camps are available at community centers like the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, the Gardena Japanese Cultural Institute and the East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center. Outside of Southern California, programs at the Japanese Community Youth Council in San Francisco, Sakura Foundation in Denver, Japanese Cultural Community Center of Washington, Japanese American Service Committee in Chicago, and Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii (abbreviated list) offer similar programming.
Next up, exhibits and online resources.
Museums and educational foundations have the expressed mission of educating the public. Whether through exhibits, documentaries, testimonials, or online activities, these resources provide an immediate outlet for exploration of culture and history. However, again, it’s important to remember that this is not a one-and-done opportunity, as regular interaction and learning are necessary for deeper identity development. So make it a habit to organize family outings.
It’s important to remember, this is not a one-and-done opportunity, regular interaction and learning is necessary for deeper identity development.
In the Japanese American community, three national organizations immediately come to mind. The Go For Broke National Education Center has collected countless stories from Japanese American WWII veterans and families. Their exhibit and online resources tell the story of those who fought for their belief in America’s promise. The Japanese American National Museum presents a comprehensive history of Japanese living in America, and Densho provides a massive library of oral histories and online resources that capture multigenerational stories.
For existing activities, add the “why” to the “what.”
I find we often sign up the kids for extracurriculars without explicitly stating what we hope they learn. I suppose we think they’ll just implicitly know. Let’s take youth sports as an example. Beyond shooting the perfect free throw, we want our kids to learn the value of teamwork, sportsmanship, and practice, but we need to be explicit in stating this. Additionally, most organizations have a history and legacy. Sharing the organization's background helps the next generation to contextualize their individual place within a much larger historical continuum.
Specifically for Japanese Americans, I find that we spend more time coaching the perfect taiko melody and critiquing our basketball layup rather than giving any context of history or intention. In fact, for most kids entering our Kizuna programs, I found that this was the first instance where they heard that taiko was a distinctly Japanese American cultural art, or that Japanese American basketball was borne from racism and discrimination. These are easy opportunities where parents and coaches can present a little context that goes a long way.
It’s easy to fall in the trap of the grind. Sure we want our kids to educationally succeed, but we need to be careful not to apply the blinders and create tunnel vision toward a singular goal.
Finally, there’s more to life than the grind.
It’s easy to fall in the trap of the grind. Sure, we want our kids to educationally succeed, but we need to be careful not to apply the blinders and create tunnel vision toward a singular goal. If our kids are solely taught to get ahead, will they seek advancement at any cost, including their own values? If they are achieving their advancement on the shoulders of their community support network, will they reciprocate to the ecosystem and provide that same support to others?
I find that, in the rat race to get into the right college and get the right job, these questions are often placed in a backseat role to the primary goal of achievement. By letting our kids know that life is community, and success is never independent to the individual, but instead, interdependent to others, we reinforce the development of the very core competencies they need to succeed.
With uncertainty abound, one certainty exists: kids are going back to school. In this issue we present stories, tips, and tricks for the online reality of the fall semester. We also take a deep dive into identity and community-based education and present its critical importance to the growth and development of the next generation.
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