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  • Phil Jarvis

Can School Prepare Children To Be Happy Adults?

Updated: Mar 19

Finding one’s path in life is a lifelong learning quest. Certainly, there will be point-in-time decision-making challenges (i.e., What course shall I choose? Which partner? Which school? Which major? Which employer? I hate or have lost my job. What now?. Career development professionals and career coaches can be a big help with these decisions.


After fifty-years of career work, I see career as a lifelong quest to find purpose and happiness. A great deal of learning about self and the world around us is required before decisions can truly be efficacious. Much more learning than deciding is required. How can we help children and adolescents learn enough about themselves and the world of possibilities around them to find their way to happiness?


Before any 'schooling' occurs, children learn a foreign language. They learn to control their body, feed themselves, sing, dance, play, and engage their imagination. They learn to read the feelings and emotions of others, to recognize humor and rebuke, feel joy and sadness. In pre-school and Kindergarten they learn, through engaging, supportive fun and play, to socialize with children and adults who are not in their family circle or neighborhood.


When they get to school they are seated at desks in straight lines and the lecturing begins. And it continues for 12 years of public school and possibly more of postsecondary school. Lecturing is an efficient way to teach, but it's the most ineffective way of all to learn.

To prepare students for a world of increasing diversity accelerating change, and uncertainty, public education should be nothing but engaging, collaborative learning projects about real-world issues students care about. Projects should be multi-disciplinary, involve students with community partners, of different ages, ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and viewpoints, and address all levels of the learning pyramid.


Fully engaged students’ brains master and retain knowledge far better. They also develop empathy and acquire essential critical thinking, communication, and collaboration skills they will need in all facets of adult life. Armed with these skills, and with confidence and purpose, students can help solve real problems in their family, community, and in our troubled world, and teach others how.



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