Questioning What Students Need
Sitting in the commons area of the local high school while some students pass by full of energy, enthusiasm and curiosity, and others pass by looking at the ground, barely aware of what’s going on around them, I wonder to myself, “What does it take in today’s world for a young adult to feel genuinely connected to their future as they graduate from high school?”
Good grades? Lots of extracurricular activities? Solid home life? Great friendships?
Or perhaps it’s how high one places in their graduating class, their scores on the SAT/ACT, their economic background, their race/gender/orientation, the ranking of their school, or the privileges they have available to them?
I returned to my question and realized the trap I fell into.
My question was asking how a young adult might feel “genuinely connected to their future.” Yet every initial thought was generated from the cultural conditioning that tells us what is deemed a “measure of success” or what is “needed” to have a successful future.
Perhaps the most innovative thing we could do for our students is to support them in redefining success for themselves.
After all, how many of us find in midlife that the definition of success we’ve been trying to measure up to is not at all what truly matters, to us as unique individuals or to life itself?
The Trappings of Systematic Education
Before we start redefining success, we must first consider what’s required to do so.
How can we know what success means to us if we don’t even know who we are, what we value, or what we want?
To succeed is to “continue, to endure” (early 15th c) or “to turn out well, have a favorable result” (late 15th c). Young adults moving into the world today are often feeling tremendous anxiety, distrust, uncertainty and confusion about the future, not only for themselves, which is the norm for an 18 to 21 year old, but also for the world as a whole. They’re struggling to know how to endure and have favorable results as they witness traditional systems and structures crumbling around them.
Systematic education teaches young people how to think, be, feel and do as society dictates.
Social Studies have offered a very narrow view of the world, typically taught from the perspective of those who won the opportunity to write the history books. Students are often asked to know dates, names, events, etc. to show their learning, yet are longing to ask the deeper questions of what we can learn from our history, what really happened, and how might we move beyond repeating the same mistakes, i.e. beyond a revolutionary way of thinking toward an evolutionary approach.
Mathematics and Sciences are taught from the perspective of the foundational principles deemed necessary for a world longing for more technological innovation, without emphasizing the ways in which these subjects might find their practical application in day-to-day living. So many young people I’ve spoken with say, “But how does this apply to my life?”
Language and Literature is often offered via honoring the “classics” to teach writing and grammar, yet many students are longing to write a new story, whether figuratively or literally. They see that the old story is no longer valid or viable, and feel stuck in the space between stories with little guidance as to how to create a new one. Where are we teaching them ways of seeing, knowing, understanding and creating such that they have skills to write that new story?
In the United States, and perhaps arguably the entire industrialized world, the educational expectations don’t vary much from place to place. Even quality private schools trying to do things differently find themselves caught in the “trap” of being measured by the number of college admissions they graduate, or of students that go on to fit the conditioned definitions of success.
There’s no doubt that in today’s world as it is, having a more “standard” education likely makes it easier for a graduating young adult to fit in, and for a striving alternative school to get enrollments.
But what if the challenge of an education that ventures outside of the box, beyond the status quo, into less comfortable territory is exactly what young adults of today need?
What if this progressive type of education is the catalyst that will transform the way organizations, higher educational institutions, and society as a whole define what a “successful” human being is and what “success” in life and business is all about?
Socio-Entrepreneurialism as a Fresh Approach
The origin of the word “entrepreneur” is “one who undertakes or manages.” Our modern world defines entrepreneurship as the management and risk assumption of a business or enterprise. When we add the “socio” to the concept of entrepreneurialism, we begin to consider how the enterprise benefits society as a whole.
Parzival Academy believes that socio-entrepreneurialism goes beyond building businesses for the benefit of society, though that’s certainly a part of it. We look at:
- Progressive Leadership Skills
- Personal and Social Awareness
- Environmental Awareness
- Innovative thinking
All of these qualities are required to contribute to the world through one’s vocation and relationships in the most effective way possible, while staying true to oneself. Each skill is needed to generate the capacity to truly “undertake and manage” oneself, one’s life, and one’s business or career in such a way that the whole of society benefits as much as the individual. There cannot be a healthy “I” without a healthy “We,” nor “We” without “I.”
Socio-entrepreneurialism understands the critical importance of connecting to the “I” in such a way that honors the “We,” understanding that there’s little to be done to impact the world in a healthy way without first knowing who we are as creative individuals.
Students at Parzival Academy are taken on a four stage journey to Discover who they are, Connect to their unique values and sense of purpose, Envision what’s possible from that deeper knowing, and ultimately Create the life and experiences they see are possible for themselves and the world around them.
Deep conversations and interactive projects support students to explore themselves and the world beyond what most educational methods offer. As one Parzival student said about orientation week:
These discussions were very human; we were talking about things…that focus on Meaning (with relation to ourselves, others, and the world). Why is it that this is not spoken of all round? Why is it that people consider it strange and usually out-of-place to consider the importance of taking time to be appropriately uncertain and to discuss what matters and how to truly discover oneself?
Participation in course work such as Navigating Extremes, Art of Communication, Choosing Wisely, Personal and Relational Awareness, Self-Leadership, Boundary Setting, Discovering Your Strengths, Connecting to Your Core Values, Overcoming Blocks, Barriers & Fears, and Manifesting Your Vision supports students in getting to know who they really are, beyond what or who society expects them to be.
When students are encouraged and given a safe space to dig deep, they learn to see their blind spots, think outside the box, lean into the unknown, explore new possibilities, and connect with their unique values around which they can most effectively serve and make a difference.
Greater self and relational awareness allows students to cultivate greater compassion and understanding of the world around them.
Additionally, when students connect with the far-too-often overlooked or ignored realms of Overcoming Racism, Connecting with Nature, Making Elders, Creating and Connecting to Community, Stress Management, and Conflict Resolution, they begin to see the impact they can make in the world around them, and the many ways they have opportunities to change the cultural story.
They have the skills and confidence to start businesses, interact with others collaboratively, align with studies and trainings that move them into their greatest potential for effective service and true fulfillment, carving a unique path for themselves that fulfills their destiny.
Socio-entrepreneurial education that guides students to explore and build resilience will give them the critical tools needed to overcome fears, take risks, and establish a joyful foundation to life.
Teachings focused in this realm of socio-entrepreneurialism emphasize collaboration over competition, generosity over scarcity, and blending wisdom with tried and true knowledge to be sustained financially, whether in one’s chosen career or in a business they create, while being one’s authentic self.
There are many educational programs that offer the “how tos” of building businesses, raising capital, marketing, and even being a “Social Entrepreneur,” but how many are creating the necessary spaces and teaching the skills needed for young adults to truly know and sustain themselves, their lives and their businesses/careers with the socio-entrepreneurial awareness that makes a lasting positive impact?
Socio-entrepreneurial education is critical for the future of humanity and the planet, and our young adults are craving it!