Turning the Tide: Giving Students Permission to Become Their Best Selves

Friends cheering together indoors
Friends cheering together indoors

There has been some really exciting news in the world of education in this new year.

A large consortium of college admissions offices endorsed a recent report by Harvard's Graduate School of Education, titled "Turning the Tide: Inspiring Concern for Others and the Common Good Through College Admissions."

The report, which was fueled by a survey of 10,000 high school students, begins with this thunderous proclamation:

"It's time to say, "Enough."

In the survey, four out of five students rated "high achievement" as important to them, while only one in five rated "caring for others" as important. Students also agreed in large numbers with the statement, "My parents are prouder if I get good grades in my classes than if I am a caring community member in class and school."

This astonishing survey followed on the heels of the 2015 American Freshman Survey, and a number of other reports and articles, painting a discouraging portrait of the social and emotional health of American college students. As Frank Bruni of the New York Times wrote, colleges are "realizing that many kids admitted into top schools are emotional wrecks or slavish adherents to soulless scripts that forbid the exploration of genuine passions."

In a press release accompanying the Harvard report, the Dean of Admissions of Kenyon College explains, "In Turning the Tide, we are granting our children permission, space, and time to develop their analytical strength, their empathic and generative selves, and their inner lives of reflection, values, and aspirations."

This report, coupled with No Child Left Behind being replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act and an accelerating trend by states to reduce the burden on standardized testing, marks the beginning of the end of an education system that relentlessly emphasizes and rewards a very narrow definition of "achievement."

In its place is a new focus on developing emotionally healthy, purpose-driven, innovative citizens.

I am so thankful to see all these actions nudging U.S. schools, students and parents in this direction. For a decade or more, my team and I have written books, created professional development and curriculum materials, and offered in-person presentations and training sessions to guide educators to develop students with self-awareness, empathy, courage, curiosity and a wide range of other traits that are essential to succeed in this world. Together we can liberate the genius of students and help them change the world, for good.

Through our Choose2Matter initiatives and partnerships with amazing school administrators and educators, we have activated thousands of students. Each and every student matters--together, we can help them become their best selves.

If we want to change the world for the better, we need to liberate the genius within. To this end, we offer a free e-book that I wished someone had written for me: Liberating Genius in the Classroom: The First 20 Days. It takes students on a journey of self-awareness, world awareness, and discovering and exploring their individual genius and passions; in sum, a journey to their best selves.

The time for students to start on this journey is now. They already have permission.

This article was co-authored by the co-founder of Choose2Matter, Mark E. Moran