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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Goodbye Summer, Hello School and Fall

Right now in America, many are lamenting the end of summer and preparing for a new school year. For Montgomery County in Maryland, school starts next Monday on August 24. There are probably mixed feelings for both parents and kids as summer in America can be both exciting and boring. There is great enthusiasm in the planning of summer trips and then exploring new and wonderful places but boredom also sets in for many kids when they are done with adventurous trips and summer camps. Summer days are long here in the USA, stretching for about 3 months. Sometimes kids long for the routine of school and being surrounded by friends. Probably the beginning of the school year is good time to reflect on the role of school in the lives of kids, highlighting the positives and being aware of the possible negatives. Recently I came across an email from my daughter’s high school about a film ‘Race to Nowhere.’ It resonates with me and I suspect it probably will strike a chord with many Asian parents as well. The film highlights over-stressed and depressed kids who feel that they are defined by grades and academic success. In Chapter 4 of my book, I talked about Creative Education in America. I think this still holds true compared to the stifling, rote-learning culture of many Asian societies. However I also highlighted that it gets tougher in America as you move up the grades, especially during the high school years. The pressure mounts to build a resume that will get you into choice colleges. High school kids try to balance it all – good grades, high SAT scores, community hours, sports, social life, popularity, looks and a myriad of other issues that contribute to teenage angst. This thought-provoking documentary tries to open channels of communication between parents and kids, and also educators and policy-makers about the prevailing school culture and the impact on the lives of kids. All parents would embrace the idea of having kids who are thriving and developing holistically instead of kids who are just academically successful. While kids need to work diligently in school, they also need time for family and friends and some unscheduled down time to smell the roses and enjoy the crisp autumn air that is just around the corner.

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