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Affluent Investor | June 24, 2017

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Do You Play Well with Others?

building blocks PUBLIC DOMAIN

It’s been more than 25 years since Robert Fulghum shared his basics of life wisdom in his book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. This volume of fifty essays reminded us of the importance of cleaning up after ourselves, to share, and to wash our hands before we eat.

My personal favorites included taking a nap every afternoon, watching out for traffic, and that warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. And among the most important of items: don’t hit people. That’s been very valuable advice.

Apparently, more research on preparing students for modern day employment needs a similar revisit. This comes in a new study by David Deming, associate professor of education and economics at Harvard. His message is clear: workers with the best opportunities ahead need social interaction skills. Like learning not to hit people.

Deming is not the only voice on this issue. A summary of others’ input on this can be found in the article, “Why What You Learned in Preschool is Crucial at Work.”

Well developed skills of cooperation, empathy, and flexibility prove more rewarding these days. As I noted in a blog a few weeks ago, robotics are consuming more and more jobs. But the automated types aren’t particularly good at learning how to play well with others.

It seems economists have been scratching their heads trying to figure out why jobs of high skill are losing ground. Those requiring effective social skills are in more demand. Understanding the human touch and connecting well are the expanding job fields.

According to Deming, preschool classrooms reflect more of the real work world. As noted, “Children move from art projects to science experiments to the playground in small groups, and their most important skills are sharing and negotiating with others. But that soon ends, replaced by lecture-style teaching of hard skills, with less peer interaction.” Jobs requiring both thinking and socializing have a real future.

As a result of various research in this area, the conclusion is that our education system needs to adjust. Thus, teaching styles are moving away from primarily classroom lectures to drawing up situations where students interact more in groups. Some college instructors are choosing to do lectures online leaving classroom time for the social side.

My interest piqued a bit when I read where a Nobel prize winning economist discussed teaching values. It is James Heckman who believes that skills like character, dependability, and perseverance are as important as cognitive achievements. But are schools today teaching these values? Heckman doubts it.

Where are you likely to encounter those three aspects of human development in school? Competitive athletic programs certainly preach persevering and being dependable. But is character a skill?

The word character has multiple definitions. Merriam Webster brings us closest to what I believe Heckman was referencing. It reads, “moral excellence and firmness (i.e., a man of sound character). This readily requires an understanding and commitment to moral principles.

And where do these principles get taught? I question that schools today are moral training grounds. Instead, this should be encouraged and nurtured by parents, grandparents, and high influence people in the lives of students. Moral truth needs a source.

In this discussion, practical suggestions on the job included taking an interest in employees’ lives and helping them individually. Once again…where do you learn to care about other people? And why?

Jesus of Nazareth was a proponent of moral truth and human concern. To commit to the highest level of morality, the greatest commandments were stated this way: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and most important command. 39 And the second command is like the first: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’” (Matthew 22:38-39, NCV)

Need to develop the social skills and character to secure a future job? Learn to love God and other people. Rather basic.

And try not to hit people.

 

Originally posted on Mark Elfstrand’s Blog.

 

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