The Frog Blog

Thoughts from the Leapfrog Learning Center in Shrewsbury

Part IV

Curriculum Content – What subjects should we teach?

Technology is catapulting our culture into the future while globalization is radically changing the context of our economic and political infrastructure.  What are the qualities America needs to lead a world where the sum total of human knowledge doubles every 4.3 years?  Clearly, America’s future prosperity depends on a labor force with increasingly sophisticated skills.  Failure is guaranteed for those without basic literacy.  Bill Gates said it best when he highlighted that the problem with our educational system is “the system.”

Overhauling our educational process must start with a clear understanding of our goals.  If our objective is to teach children the skills to be happy, self-sufficient, and responsible adults, then the educational process must not only give them the academic skills needed for literacy but the practical skills needed for success, the social/emotional skills needed to be happy, and the maturity and sense of social consciousness needed for responsible behavior.  Expanding our goals beyond traditional academics does not mean compromising literacy but it does mean major structural changes to the methodology of how we teach.

Academic Skills:

The first priority of this initiative will be to teach academics and demonstrate that motivational programming results in universal success with accelerating learning and high achievement levels.  Initially, Leapfrog will target 12th grade proficiency by grade 10 (a modest ambition when you note I have an 18 year track record proving the first year can be skipped by age five).  All subjects will be taught through the prism of practical applications and relevance.  In the case of “English,” the details of what we teach will be driven by social interaction skills and dovetail with all the technical communication mediums required for success in the workplace.  “Math” will be taught with a new perspective on logic and probability/statistics and will be explicitly linked to practical life decisions about everything (particularly economic and personal finance questions).  “Science” will be taught with a “new frontier” mentality (always with a link real life applications) with the explicit goals of inspiring excitement around cutting edge technologies, multiplying the number science majors at universities, and spawning a stream of new high tech industries.  Finally, “social studies” will take on a greatly enhanced priority reflecting the new realities of the global village.  Technology has made the world’s social, political, and economic infrastructures co-dependent and fundamentally changed the way people around the world interact with each other.  The dynamics of the new global matrix mandate that we teach our children an international perspective and an understanding and respect for foreign cultures.  Like it or not, globalization has linked all people inextricably together.

Personal Enrichment:

Academic skills roughly determine employability but the skills of personal enrichment determine one’s ability to be happy.  The key to teaching these skills lies in the details of personality development.

It all starts in preschool.  The core of personality revolves around self-confidence and this is primarily a function of the socialization skills that determine how you are perceived by those around you.  As young children search for identity, they tend to define themselves as others see them.  That self-image is gradually internalized and becomes who you are.  Giving children good inter-personal skills translates into positive feedback from peers, reinforcing a positive self-image and a positive attitude towards socialization.  Personal enrichment will, therefore, start with an emphasis on communication and the ability to understand and express emotions and feelings (first in yourself, then in others).  This will be accomplished through a variety of games, activities, and drama exercises which teach children how to listen for emotional content “underneath” words and how to interpret body language, voice tones, and facial cues.  Conflict resolutions skills will be a continuing priority at all grade levels with increasing degrees of sophistication as children get older (the core of this effort will revolve around Myrna Shure’s “I Can Problem Solve” program).  Courses related to persuasion, compromise, and negotiation will also become increasingly prominent as children get older.  Drama activities will be used to teach empathy as children use reverse role play to better understand opposing perspectives.  Teamwork will be another core objective with many activities requiring students to work jointly with their peers to accomplish shared objectives.  These activities will be designed to demonstrate team dynamics (first through cooperative games then building on techniques currently used in executive training).

After building the foundations for high functioning behavior, personal enrichment will focus on more complex components of personality dealing with values, compassion, emotional maturity and social responsibility.

Perhaps the biggest flaw of traditional education is the lack of moral convictions in a “me first” generation which is driven by a sense of entitlement and does not understand the link between hard work and rewards.  Leapfrog will start by teaching a strong moral code based on the maxim “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  Can schools promote qualities like compassion, empathy, generosity, and social responsibility?  Of course they can!  Pre-schools do it every day, demonstrating that virtues like “sharing” and “empathy” can be taught (and internalized as part of personality) if the process starts early and is reinforced as children grow older.

Practical Skills:

Imagine a curriculum that includes courses like “How to get what you want,” How to make and keep good friends,” “How to make a lot of money,” and “how to get the best price for everything.”  In the past, relevancy has been the reason most dropouts leave school.  The Leapfrog project will make relevancy the reason everyone stays until graduation.

The foundation of “self-confidence” is having the skills for success.  These life lessons will focus on the practical challenges people care about the most.  These courses will be synchronized with maturity level and related perspectives.  There will be an evolving priority on personality development and socialization which will gradually be blended with the skills required to succeed academically and, finally, with the skills needed to succeed in the workplace and in adult personal relationships.  Initial focus will be on personal characteristics like listening, expressing feelings, organization, making friends … eventually evolving to more complex skills like creativity, memorization, concentration, teamwork, etc.  In primary and middle school, courses will include “how to solve problems,” “how to get good grades,” and “how to study for tests.”  As children get older, themes will focus on subjects like “how to choose a boyfriend/girlfriend,” “how to understand what people want,” “how to listen,” “win/win negotiations,” and “the art of compromise.”  In high school these course will include themes like “money (how to make it, save it, and spend it),” “how to choose an occupation/major,” “how to get colleges to choose you,” “how to get the job you want (find it, write resume, interview),” “how to make decisions,” “how to get promoted,” “how to prioritize your life,” etc.  Skills related to the workplace will designed through a collaboration with employers and older students will cycle through a wide variety of internships to help them learn about the precise details of various occupations.

Visit the leapfrog learning center nj and see where the solution to the education crisis evolved

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