2 speeches

The text of President Obama ‘controversial’ speech is out. It’s full of old fashion values. He’ll suggests that students should

fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.

Joanne Jacobs wrote a nice summary. Rotherham found it perhaps tepid. But it’s just the right message for our kids—hard work matters.

I’ve written before about the need to learn more about motivation science; we need to get better and finding and exploiting learning hooks with tailored learning experiences. However, kids will need to develop the self-control of persistence. Whitney Tilson called it grit and noted this week that it’s stronger in Asian cultures. There are a small percentage of American young people working as hard as any in the world, but most of us are comfortable with our short day/year and modest expectations for student workload.

Duncan’s leadership on failing schools is essential, but so is the development of a culture of success in historically underserved communities. I think the president’s voice, more than any other, can help create demand for good schools. (But we still have a lot to do on this front to fix/replace the worst schools in the country.)

Young people need adults that believe in ability to succeed in school and life. That’s the message that young Dalton Sherman delivered at the back to school rally for Dallas ISD. Watch the video—he’ll make you smile. Dalton challenges the crowd by asking, “Do you believe in me?” The third time I watched it, I thought about my own assumptions about urban black kids like Dalton. He’ll make you think. I hope the president does the same for millions of us tomorrow.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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