Success Skills

This week I attended a screening of the documentary Most Likely to Succeed. It is a fascinating look at one particular high school in California that is taking a radically different approach to education. You can watch the trailer here.

At the heart of the movie is the notion that computers are quickly and easily replacing many of the jobs requiring a medium-level of skill (such as sales, production and operator jobs). Our nation’s work force is increasingly polarized between low skill-level jobs (such as food prep and janitorial jobs) and high skill-level jobs (such as managerial and engineering professions). Therefore, as parents concerned about our children’s futures, we need to work towards helping them develop the skills that will open doors for them in the future, and, as it turns out, these are skills that have very little to do with deriving equations or writing essays.

So what are these? In an interview with the New York Times, Laszlo Bock, whose job at Google is to oversee hiring, said that primarily they want “learning ability” (emphasis added). He continues, “It’s the ability to process on the fly. It’s the ability to pull together disparate bits of information.”

The next skills are: leadership, humility, a sense of ownership, and (at the bottom of the list of importance), expertise. They want employees who understand and can learn from failure, and who know what to do with the knowledge they have.

In the movie, they call these “soft skills.” And I believe that these are the skills that cannot be easily taught from a traditional textbook. They are abilities that we develop as we engage with the world in meaningful ways, through challenge and perseverance.

I believe we have it in us as a community to work towards helping our schools develop the model they examine in the documentary. But until such time as that happens, I believe that music education provides us with the exact formula for the things that our kids need for success.

Consider the notion that, “playing music is the brain’s equivalent to a full-body workout.” (How playing an instrument benefits your brain—Anita Collins). Our whole brain works together. In fact, a musician’s corpus collosum is bigger than that of a non-musician. This is the part of the brain that moves information between both hemispheres and, housing the largest amount of white matter in the brain, influences the way our brains function.

Playing with other musicians and vocalists gives our kids a way to practice feeling ownership over something. There’s nothing like knowing the marching band is dependent on your steady beat to make sure that you hone your drum skills! Additionally, musical education can be tough—but kids learn that perseverance pays off. And my son is proof that in learning an instrument, one also has to listen to what is coming out of the instrument, figuring out what is right and wrong, and learning to make adjustments. It’s a great big R&D lab for critical thinking skills.

Of course, in Kindermusik we are not about performance. But the process of engaging with music at this young age means that our kids are learning how to explore options—prime practice for practicing and developing curiosity.

We talk a lot in Kindermusik about how we’re educating the whole child. Certainly, we are priming kids brains for success in school. But we are also priming them for success in life.

Check out more from Anita Collin’s research in the video:[youtube][/youtube]

Can’t wait to see you again next week in class!

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