Skills that kids need

by Grace aka costofcollege

The skills Americans say kids need to succeed in life

Pew Research Center recently asked a national sample of adults to select among a list of 10 skills: “Regardless of whether or not you think these skills are good to have, which ones do you think are most important for children to get ahead in the world today?”

The answer was clear. Across the board, more respondents said communication skills were most important, followed by reading, math, teamwork, writing and logic. Science fell somewhere in the middle, with more than half of Americans saying it was important.

Rounding out the bottom were skills more associated with kids’ extracurricular activities: art, music (sorry, right-brained people) and athletics. There was virtually no difference in the responses based on whether the person was a parent of a child aged 18 and younger or not.

20160305.PewKidsSkillsI take it that communication skills include speaking and writing.  Go to the link to see differences based on the respondents’ level of education.

Your thoughts?


112 thoughts on “Skills that kids need

  1. I would say logic, communication and math (in that order). If you are strong in those areas, you will likely do just fine in most areas of life.

  2. I think the ability to communicate must include the ability to speak comfortably and appropriately with adults. To get the job they must be comfortable with the interview process. To keep the job, they must be articulate and able to communicate with people of all ages. I have seen young adults who are uncomfortable outside of their peers, and who do not interview well. Graduates of prestigious schools who are academically gifted, have been passed over for job opportunities because they were not sufficiently mature enough to communicate properly with those in the hiring position. How you present yourself is a life skill that matters more than they extracurricular activities you engaged in in high school.

  3. I would put being a life long learner and open to learning new things as a valuable skill.

  4. I think the categories are too broad to be helpful. I think most important is “good work hygiene”. Showing up on time, in clean clothes, prepared with whatever supplies you might need. This is something that causes people to fail at all levels. Also, good emotional control – no violent, tearful or angry outbursts, appropriate boundaries. The PA who wanted to talk (at length) about how her hair coloring looked when her boyfriend was behind her was let go.

  5. I agree with the importance of speaking skills, and I sense that most K-12 schools are not putting much emphasis on teaching this.

    What ever happened to elocution instruction in the public schools?

    I like this explanation of elocution.

    Broadly speaking, the word “elocution” refers to one’s manner of speaking or oral delivery. Elocution can also refer to the study of proper public speaking, with particular attention paid to pronunciation, grammar, style, and tone. is particularly used in reference to an orator’s manner of speech when speaking or reading aloud in public….

  6. CofC,

    I took a class in college on public speaking: make eye contact with the audience, don’t rock back and forth, speak clearly, don’t lean on anything. They video taped us and went over the tape to point out things you could do better. And, lo and behold, the most important job interview of my life required that I give a presentation.

  7. Perhaps reiterating Ada’s comment, my initial thought was not a skill, but “work ethic”- the recognition that you are responsible for getting the job done, and in some cases, being willing to do more than what is asked, with less instruction, or whatever you can do to complete the job “better” than what is asked.

    At Iowa State in the late 19th century, elocution and military drill were both required subjects.

    I think Ada is right that “tearfulness” is problematic at work, and part of me wishes that were not so. The hormone swings after pregnancy losses, combined with their emotional impact, made me quite teary in general for a couple years, though I tried to cry only in the bathroom. :) Pretty much none of my (middle aged male) colleagues have ever cried at work. I cried while talking to a colleague about 15 years ago and we both still remember it, though he’s nice enough not to bring it up. Another of my (young, female) peers received news that her grandmother had died unexpectedly and had tears as she made arrangements to leave work. I felt sorry for her and I think my colleagues felt similarly, even though they don’t cry at work over deaths in their own families.

  8. CofC,

    I’ve mentioned before that, at least around here, elocution is a big part of the curriculum at elite private schools. These kids will need to give political speeches, present their research papers at conferences, make presentations to the board, etc. It’s all very future masters of the universe.

    As to why it’s less popular in public schools, it may be because it’s not a skill that comes in as handy to rank and file people?

  9. Good public speaking requires practice, a good coach/teacher and the ability and willingness to accept and incorporate criticism. Good coaches are available in public schools, but they are sometimes hidden under the guise of an ag teacher.

  10. “As to why it’s less popular in public schools, it may be because it’s not a skill that comes in as handy to rank and file people?”

    I was also going to comment that elocution is taught at elite prep schools. Good speaking skills are also important to the “rank and file”, maybe in different ways. A kid I know just got landed an important retail job, and based on the feedback she got and on what I know about this kid, her speaking skills were important. She participated in drama club and community theater, and I think that helped her in presentation/speaking skills.

  11. Public speaking is valuable, but hard and time consuming to teach. And when presentations are done well, they seem effortless. It is definitely a skill that would be useful especially to rank and file people, and the lack of easy communication skills can be a class marker.

  12. I agree with Ada. I think we are comparing apples and oranges. I think when people talk about communication and logic, they are talking about skills that can be applied in a number of situations; OTOH, when people talk about science, they are likely thinking of a specific knowledge base (e.g., “my kid needs to major in chemical engineering because that will get them a solid job”). I think there is very little scientific knowledge that is actually *required* to succeed in life — but having that knowledge puts you in with a much smaller category of people who are qualified for some pretty darn good careers.

    I also think the skills change depending on the kind of job/career. I think the skills that everyone needs to succeed, no matter at what level, are basically kindergarten skills:

    — Show up when you are supposed to
    — Do what you are asked (be reliable)
    — Get along with others, even people you don’t like
    — Be polite and communicate respectfully
    — Present yourself decently, both in what you wear and how you speak/act
    — Have control over your emotions (don’t act like a 3-year-old when you don’t get what you want, don’t physically attack people when you get angry/disappointed, etc)
    — Learn/practice delayed gratification

    The only “skills” I would add at this level are basic levels of reading and math, so that you can read a bus stop sign or instruction sheet, manage a bank account, etc.

    Beyond that, specific jobs require specific knowledge bases and skillsets — some of which may be learned in class (e.g., petroleum engineering or geology degree to learn to find where the oil/gas is), others may be trainable on the job or in CC (e.g., how to run a drilling rig, welding). I would put many of the arts here, too, along with athletics, because if you are talented/train hard, you can support yourself without college degrees, etc.

    If you are talking professional-level jobs, then you get into some higher-level-brain-skills. Like logic and critical thinking, HS/college levels of math/science, much better reading/writing skills, etc. But the specific combination of skills depends on which field you pursue — a stock market quant needs much higher-level training in math and computer stuff than a lawyer.

    To my mind, the skillsets that are the most broadly-applicable are all of the kindergarten-level skills above, plus reading comprehension, writing, communicating effectively with others (whether via powerpoint or orally), critical thinking/logic, and flexibility and willingness to learn. That can get you far in almost any sort of corporate environment. OTOH, people can do just fine without a lot of those skills, as long as they pick a field that aligns with what they are good at.

  13. “ag teacher”? As in agricultural?

    Yes, I’ve sat on a number of scholarship committees, and it is generally glaringly obvious who the FFA kids are, without seeing any mention on their resume. They tend to come in, greet the committee, look everyone in the eye, are well dressed, on time and ready to impress.

  14. Have any of your older kids taken some sort of career guidance class ? Or got tested for career paths ?

  15. “At Iowa State in the late 19th century, elocution and military drill were both required subjects.”

    I was amazed at how closely the two are related, and how they contribute to public speaking ability.

  16. Re: crying at work. I feel like people are pretty understanding of people who cry at work because of normal reactions to terrible events (e.g., family member’s death). On the other hand, I would do whatever it takes to avoid crying about work at work.

  17. Have any of your older kids taken some sort of career guidance class ? Or got tested for career paths ?

    Yes, as part of the junior year guidance process to prep for college applications all the kids take/took a ‘what color is my parachute’-type test to give them an idea of what subjects/careers they seem well suited for at that point in their lives. Pretty helpful, IMO, and it just turned out that the assessments were in line with the kids’ stated interests. I think it’s pretty hard to game those things and I also think my kids took them honestly as a helping device.

  18. PS — I was amused by this:

    “Democrats and independents were more likely to say science skills were important, with 61% and 59%, respectively, citing that skill, compared with just 52% of Republicans.”

    Sort of falls within the “duh” category, as I have yet to find a Creationist wing within the Democratic party. :-) I mean, science and religion have a very longstanding, testy relationship, so it doesn’t seem too surprising that the party with more very religious members (including many who are on the fundamentalist end of the spectrum) would also on average think science was less important.

    (Not that the liberal ends of the Democratic party do much better with science, of course, e.g., GMOs, alternative medicine, etc. But they tend to believe science is important — they just think we currently have it all wrong).

  19. I feel like people are pretty understanding of people who cry at work because of normal reactions to terrible events (e.g., family member’s death). On the other hand, I would do whatever it takes to avoid crying about work at work.

    Agreed. If you just had a miscarriage or your relative died, people will cut you a lot of slack. Crying because someone else got a promotion is more problematic.

    When my assistant was pregnant, people were pretty reasonable about the fact that she would cry sort of randomly. People usually understand about hormones.

  20. CoC, we require our students to take a course in public speaking. The students all hate it.

  21. The students all hate it.

    For the interview presentation, I was told that a fairly significant number of people just chicken out and never show up, some even get as far as waiting in reception before walking out. What do they say, the fear of public speaking is right up there with the fear of death?

  22. I really wonder how the respondents interpreted “logic”. I mentally used as the equivalent the Yiddish term Sechel (pronounced SAY-khl) which means something along the lines of common sense or life smarts, as opposed to book smarts. That would encompass much of the show up and do your job, don’t stay up all night drinking/drugging and call in sick, wear appropriate clothes – the ability to see the negative or positive consequences of a course of action.

  23. “Yes, I’ve sat on a number of scholarship committees, and it is generally glaringly obvious who the FFA kids are, without seeing any mention on their resume. They tend to come in, greet the committee, look everyone in the eye, are well dressed, on time and ready to impress.”

    Cordelia, I think that FFA is a great organization; glad to see that others think that as well. DD has gained so much from being part of the FFA, with speaking in front of groups of adults a large part of it. In school, DD frequently has to present papers in other classes, but it is always just in front of the other students and the teacher. FFA gets her in front of adults, which is very different than speaking in front of your peers. Others may mock FFA, but DD is gaining more life skills in that organization than in any other extra curricular activity that she participates in.

  24. Performing arts is not mentioned but I’ve found that my kid who dances has no problem being on stage in front of an audience. This includes completing the dance and carrying on even if you forget your steps, slip etc. No tears or running off the stage.

  25. Louise brings up a good point that a lot of the right-brain “skills” may be less valuable for the skills themselves than for the other things they teach. E.g., dancing/singing/acting = ease with public speaking; athletics = experience working together as a team; in all of them, the discipline to practice routinely and persevere until the performance is good; etc.

  26. Public speaking, talking with adults…these are skills stressed at my kids’ (private, Catholic) ms/hs. The firm handshake, looking people in the eye. They don’t have a specific public speaking course, but through the 6 years they have plenty of assignments where they have present something so by the time they graduate they’re confident in their ability to speak to a group.

  27. Cordelia, it’s interesting that the ability to communicate with adults is taught by FFA where you live – around here I assume the family belongs to a country club or the child is enrolled at the very expensive private schools, or both.

  28. “Public speaking, talking with adults”

    Boy Scouts teaches these skills, as well. Every Board of Review (which is required for a scout to move to the next level) includes an interview with several adults asking the scout about what he’s learned and asking for examples of stated skills.

  29. I think there are three kinds of skills:

    1. “Hard” skills that you need for your job, whatever it is, from accessing the computer, to knowing how to use the equipment, to knowing the processing steps for what you produce, and having the appropriate technical knowledge to apply to the problems or processes you work with. These are either taught in school/college or the employer expects to teach them to you. For example, my current job uses a database to capture data. I was expected to know how to use that software in general, but my employer expected to teach me about the fields of data that are kept and how to interpret what you retrieve from those fields.

    2. “Soft” skills that you need in school, your job, your family, etc. These include being able to convey your thougths orally or in writing in a way that they are easily understood. Knowing how to introduce yourself, make a presentation, answer the phone professionally, and being able to figure out the unwritten rules of where you are….oh business causal at my old employer meant jeans and tshirts, but here it means khaki’s and a polo.

    3. “Self-managment” skills that include things like personal hygiene, dressing appropriately (some overlap with soft skills, but also for the weather), time managment (get there on time, but also the right day at the right location and starting things soon enough to finish them on time), and time perception (realizing how long things really take to that you can funnel that into time management. My DD#1 always thinks it takes her 10 minutes to get ready, but it is 20 EVERY TIME.). To me this also includes things like being able to prepare a simple meal (even just microwavables), take care of you living space, washing your clothes, paying your bills.

    I think schools, organizations and employers do a great job of #1, it can be hit or miss on #2, and #3 is completely left up to the family. But, I think they are all part of the puzzle of what you need.

  30. Beauty pageants also teach those skills, or at least that was my observation the one time I did mock interviewing in that context.

    I agree with Ada that the categories are broad enough that they probably mean different things to different respondents. And I agree with whoever pointed out that the skills at the bottom are the sort that you only need in certain fields, but in those fields, you can’t do without them. Like, try getting ahead designing print ads without any skill in the visual arts.

  31. I have a college admission question, the Google has been no help. The high school in my town sent four kids to Harvard a few years ago. A fifth was accepted but went to Yale. I always thought the top schools would grant admission to maybe one or two students, but five? How does this happen? This is in the northeast, not a top high school. I think three of the kids were white and one was South Asian. Roughly 450 kids in the graduating class.

  32. Lurker, back in my day Harvard reviewed applications by high school (as do many other selective schools).

    While most years my high school sent a fairly predictable number of kids to each Ivy, every so often there would be a cluster (or zero) depending on a confluence of factors: whether there were recruited athletes, legacies (parents/grandparents/siblings, etc.) or some special hook like a national science award. Some of that information will be public, but not all of it.

    So you might go five years with no one getting into Harvard, and then have five from one class. And then another five years with no one, or two people, or whatever.

    It’s possible that the guidance counselor has some special in with the admissions office, but it’s more likely to be chance.

  33. I have, wine. I’ve worked as an assistant professor and then also as a librarian. What do you want to know?

  34. If you’re deciding whether or not to send your own kid to that high school, I would look at the stats over ten years for, say, the Ivy League plus Stanford and MIT, and watch for a big trend one way or the other.

    If it’s a public school that doesn’t publish a list of colleges attended, the number of NMSF per year over a decade might be easier to find.

  35. Yes…a long time ago though. Do you have a specific question? Universities often have lots of administrative jobs that many other organizations would – purchasing, accouting, payroll, human resources, fleet management, building maintenance (from plumbers to carpenters to electricians to janitors), food service, health service (at least at residential schools), utilities (power, water) workers to keep systems running, security, grounds maintenance, etc.

    The good and bad was that when I worked there our holidays followed the students/faculty and not the general public. So, no MLK day or President’s Day, but more time at Spring Break. Some people with school aged kids found it backward to not need time at spring break, but to be taking off for President’s Day when the kids didn’t have school.

  36. hmm no specific question really, one of the jobs said it would need to be decided if it would continue after 12 months, is this a standard thing?

  37. wine – I take that to mean it’s a temporary (12 month) position…lots of private companies have those, too…with the possibility it could be reclassed to permanent. The job you posted seems like a typical university finance/accounting job to me. Aside from employer-specific benefits, I think it’d be the same as working as an entry level accountant at a S&P 500 company. (except for the obvious of fund accounting vs GAAP/public)

  38. winemama – I am replying as the child and parent of DC area fed government employees. Your credentials get submitted and it appears that in your case you don’t have to sit for any actual exam – you just get a deemed score from your experience, resume and other bits of information. That score will determine the Civil Service level and the salary range you can be offered. There is an entire website devoted to that states university civil service system, which is apparently separate from the general state employment civil service system. Usually civil service applicants get “bonus points” on their score or sometimes even absolute preference for veteran’s status. There can be other bonus factors, and internal transfers go to the head of the line. It is highly mechanical process at the level to which you are considering applying. And external factors such as hiring freezes, state budget cutbacks, late surfacing of an internal transfer can delay job acceptance and pull the rug out from under what you thought was secure. My daughter had to wait patiently through recessions, budget sequestrations, hiring freezes, and a flood of recent veterans until she was able to get her job (at a very high GS level for a paralegal and one for which she was uniquely qualified.) If you get the job, it is really hard to get fired, but advancement is slowwwww. From what I know of you, I would assume this is a job you are seeking for a limited duration, not a lifetime career move.

  39. Go to the Big civil service website and try the FAQs, at which I glanced a while ago when I found it. In a 30 sec scan I saw one on CPA credentials and another on the 12 mo temporary status – I didn’t read them.

  40. Sky, Thanks. My kid is in K, and will go to that school as it is the only high school in the district. Asking out of curiosity, never heard of that scenario before…

  41. There seems to be an enormous gap between the skills parents SAY they want kids to have, and the amount of effort they exert to help their children gain those skills. The example of performing arts was spot on, and athletics can also serve that purpose. So can part-time jobs that require interaction with adult customers. I’m not convinced that formal elocution classes add that much to the mix, but certainly simple measures such as having regular device-free family dinners would help.

  42. I’m not convinced that formal elocution classes add that much to the mix

    What makes you doubt their effectiveness?

  43. Presentation skills are important, but communicating with all types of people is important for many jobs- I’ll bet Ada has experienced this.

    Asian PhD engineers often have trouble developing rapport with the technicians who grew up around here. I’ve pondered why that is, and why I haven’t had trouble, and I think it’s because the technicians are smart, working class people like my Dad. Walking down the hall to a meeting while thinking about this post, I had this conversation with a tech I know slightly.

    Him: You followin’ me.
    Me: (joking tone) I am.
    Him: How ya doin’?
    Me: Heading to a meeting. You?
    Him: Trying to stay out of trouble.
    Me: Bet that’s a full-time job.

    For whatever reason, people who grow up in Asian cultures often don’t interact like that, and it makes the technicians reluctant to share information that isn’t what it’s supposed to be, information you often NEED to solve a problem.

  44. Wine – I work as staff at a university. My take on accountants in higher ed is that they seem grossly underpaid for what is required, but this may depend on the school.

  45. WCE, have you ever tried joking around informally in a foreign language? Think about how many things in your example conversation involve being able to understand and to use slight differences in tone.

  46. Mommy brag time – and this is kind of related to the skills you should know topic, so please bear with me.,My oldest is enrolled in a 3 year science research course. Those of you who are in NY may know it because it is offered at many good NY high schools. In the first year, they develop a research topic and write a proposal. Then, they have to shop it around to potential research mentors, who have to be university faculty with research labs. Only about 30% of the students find mentors, from what I have heard. If you don’t find a mentor in the first year, you are out. Virtually all of the students do bio topics because the big medical research groups in NYC, like Columbia or Langone, are used to high schoolers. But my kid wanted to do CS. This is a first for our program.

    So my kid spent much of the summer and fall slogging through research papers, the kind that grad students read. He figured out a topic, refined it, had a heart attack when he learned someone else had published an exploratory study on the topic this year, but regrouped and figure out what he was adding. But he needed a mentor. I had a close friend/colleague shop his proposal around her department, and she got a nibble. The prospective mentor wanted to do a Skype interview with my kid to see if he really knows his area. So my kid spend a week reading all of this guy’s research, and figuring out how he could integrate that approach into his project. I figured it would be good practice for DS to do this but not much would come of it.

    So DS did the Skype interview yesterday. I wasn’t home. but DH semi listened in. It went on for a while evidently, but by the end, the mentor was enthused, said he wanted to work with DS, and send him links to a bunch of helpful material. Wow. i couldn’t have done that even as an undergrad. The reason my brag ties to our topic is because DS showed that he can clearly speak to adults in a clear and persuasive manner, and with confidence. So I am proud of him for that.

    Now of course he has to follow through and get this somewhat ambitious project going over the next two years!!

  47. “have any of you ever worked for a university, besides as faculty?”

    Yeah, I had a part-time job as a calculus tutor when I was in school.

    ” did you have to take a civil service exam?”

    No. I had in interview with the prof in charge of the tutoring program in which he threw a bunch of calculus problems at me, and I had to solve them, explaining all steps in the process.

  48. HM, these are people who grew up speaking English, but your comment makes me realize that they often grew up speaking Indian English or in Totebaggy cities with parents who didn’t speak English as their first language. So it’s not that English is a foreign language, but arguably that “working class English” is a foreign language.

    I definitely understand the language gap when English is a second language, and the technicians work hard to help people with that issue.

    For the people of Indian heritage, I wonder if growing up with servants makes you not think about them as people you develop rapport with. My “Japanese heritage” sample set has only one person, but he doesn’t have the issue.

  49. “Have any of your older kids taken some sort of career guidance class ? Or got tested for career paths ?”

    When I was in HS, all frosh were required to take a one-semester class called Guidance. A big part of that class was learning about post-HS options, both career and education, as well as self-evaluation. After going through this, we then reviewed our plans for HS courses for the rest of HS, with a chance to adjust those based on what we’d just learned.

    DS just had something like that, in the first semester of his junior year. Of course, with his school having about a 99% rate of college attendance, the focus was heavily on the college admissions process, with some attention to careers.

  50. “When I was in HS, all frosh were required ”

    This term always makes me laugh. I picture some big, obnoxious fraternity senior declaring that all the frosh pledges need to…

  51. ” lo and behold, the most important job interview of my life required that I give a presentation.”

    At my previous employer, the standard job interview started with a group interview which would start with an interviewee presentation, starting with a resume review, then moving on to a technical presentation. The audience would be about 8 to 12 members, including the interviewee’s potential peers and managers, and often representative(s) from other functions that regularly worked with the interviewee’s potential work group.

  52. Mooshi – awesome!

    Speaking in front of an audience – this is one area where drama/singing training really helps. I hate preparing but I looooove being in front of an audience. When I read a poem at my friend’s wedding I had 5 different people ask me if I was an actress. Winning! :)

  53. “My take on accountants in higher ed is that they seem grossly underpaid for what is required”

    Yes, definitely, Atlanta.

  54. Mooshi, is that the DS with VG test scores but <VG grades?

    That project sounds like a potential hook that could help him overcome <VG grades to get into a good college.

  55. Mooshi, I love your post for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that I know and understand the challenge involved in the science research program. The second reason is I remember your original post (aka complaint!!!) about how your school expected your kid to just do most of this on his own etc, etc. It sounds like he rose to the challenge, and gained a lot of independence and maturity due to the lack of support from your school.

    I do think that kids learn how to communicate in school through projects. DD has been involved in research projects starting in first grade, and it usually involves a group and a group presentation. It is age appropriate, but the kids presented about the rain forest in first grade, birds in second grade, and the list goes on through sixth grade. The research involved in sixth grade is much more detailed vs. 1st grade. Also, the kids learn to communicate their findings via powerpoint, google docs or papers. They are required to present at least 4 times a year in middle school (a public school) because each academic subject has at least one group project. This year, DD already had to make a presentation about plant cells, Starbucks, Egypt and something else that I can’t remember.

    I know the extra emphasis on research and non fiction writing is common core, but the presentations are encouraged by her teachers. On a much smaller scale, she has a teacher that requires the kids to say, “may I” instead of “can I” for certain requests. Every teacher has the opportunity to teach communication skills to our children if they decide to take the opportunity each day in their classrooms.

  56. One of my engineering profs strongly felt that presentation skills were essential to being an effective engineer, and he pushed for an engineering presentation course that is now part of the EE curriculum.

    That course did not exist when I was a student, but that prof had kids in his classes do a lot of presentations. I took a couple of grad classes from him, and in both cases, each student had to give a couple of the lectures. In his introductory device physics classes, he required all students to be in study groups, and every week would assign a topic that one member of the study group would have to present to the rest of the group.

    His students had a history of doing very well at job interviews.

  57. Logic is fairly low on the list of skills, and I have to agree. I’ve met a lot of fairly successful people who don’t have a good grasp of logical principles.

    However, I think it is difficult to excel in many fields without being able to think logically.

  58. Wow, Mooshi, I am *really* impressed with your DS — huge congrats!!

  59. “What makes you doubt their effectiveness?”

    Because these are skills that years to develop, and hours of practice. Maybe not 10,000 — but surely more than the few hours each student gets to spend in front of an audience in a formal class. I am sure that these classes are useful, but they aren’t sufficient. Like driver’s ed behind-the-wheel training; it’s not a bad thing, but the 100 hours spent driving around with Mom and Dad are far more critical.

  60. Wine, IME, temp 12 month temp jobs generally fall into two categories:

    -Jobs which are truly temporary.

    -Jobs for which there is really a long-term need. Often these are created as temp jobs because it’s much easier and faster to get approved. They are also often created as temporary to facilitate an extended trial period with an easy way out.

    If you have any contacts within the organization, they may be able to help you determine which it is. The hiring manager is also often up front when the job is truly temporary, or if it’s really a long-term need that was created as temp for the easier/faster approval.

  61. ” I’ve met a lot of fairly successful people who don’t have a good grasp of logical principles. ”

    We keep saying this, but could you give an example? What are we talking about here?

  62. Scarlett,

    You need both, obviously. But, I’d argue a formal class is a vital component.

  63. At our local university, some jobs renew dependent on funding. If you interview, it’s worth understanding the funding history (or lack of history) for the position. I may someday wind up in the pool of educated people looking for annual contract jobs if we decide not to move.

  64. WCE – Introverts sometimes have a hard time with that sort of chit chat with extroverts. But, your point about building a relationship through informal conversations that result in getting lots of good information that you NEED is spot on.

    I had two times that I can recall where that informal relationship allowed what could have been an ugly process and outcome go smoothly. One was when I needed some information and “the person” who does that was not available. Because of that informal relationship, “the person’s” boss actually got that for me. The boss was known to “never” do anything like that! The other was when someone needed information from me. I could have given the formal party line or the real answer. I gave him the real answer. He could have gone directly to my boss, who then would have known I didn’t follow his instructions to the letter. But, he took the information, went a different route to get his problem solved, though it still involved me. However, to my boss I looked like the one who saved the day.

  65. “Because these are skills that years to develop, and hours of practice.”

    At my kids’ school, public speaking is an integral part of their education starting in K. Especially in the early grades, there are a lot of events in which parents and grandparents are invited, and all the kids get chances to speak in front of everyone. Those speaking opportunities are treated as something everyone does, and not considered a big deal, which seems to help the shyer kids.

    At the K-1 level, the events are mostly classroom events, so the kids are speaking in front of about 24 other kids, and their parents and grandparents. As they get older, they get to speak at larger events that include their entire grades, then events presented to other grades as well.

    The school also has a tradition of a speech competition in 7th and 8th grades, in which all kids participate, writing and presenting an original oratory. Being a competition, this is a big deal to some of the kids.

  66. Rhett, I think formal classes are one way to develop good presentation skills but it’s possible that the broader training in literature at elite private schools gives children the vocabulary and references that are needed for many types of speech.

    I recently read/realized that “Screw your courage to the sticking place” in Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” is originally from “MacBeth”. I recognize scriptural references (typically KJV) everywhere. We’ve talked about “The Matthew Effect” from sociology here, and everyone seemed to understand the reference.

    Fascinating article on the development of MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

  67. Mooshi – It is so great when you can see the evidence that they are growing up and that when they are away it will be just fine (at least eventually). He will find opportunity and make the most of it no matter exactly which school he attends or what path he follows.

  68. lurker, perhaps your town HS just happened to have one very special class.

    Each year, the most common number of NMSF for the public schools in this state is, by far, zero. A handful of schools will have one, very few may have two, and some years there will be a school with three. Some counties typically have zero to one NMSF.

    But one year, in one of those zero to one counties, one HS had four NMSF, and the neighboring HS had 1, and as far as anyone could tell, it just happened to be a good year there for NMSF.

    Another possibility is that your town HS kids typically don’t apply to HSS like HYPSM, but that year a group of kids decided together to apply. At my HS, we once had a similar cluster of kids going to Yale, in part because somehow Yale caught the fancy of a group of the top students.

  69. Mooshi, all congratulations to your DS.

    Not to diminish his accomplishment at all, but this sentence jumped out at me: I had a close friend/colleague shop his proposal around her department, and she got a nibble.

    This is where I wonder if a very bright kid whose parents work in construction or at Starbucks would ever be able to really compete in this marketplace.

  70. Fin,, yep, that is the one, Mr. Underachiever.

    Doesn’t seem like one to me. A fan of administrivia? Perhaps not. Underachiever? Certainly not.

  71. RMS, that is so true. I suspect that most of the kids who find mentors have parents with contacts, actually.
    I was at a conference last week, and ran into somoene who had actually mentored a high school student with a project. I asked him, “how did the student make the contact with you?”, and he said that the kid’s parents knew somebody in the department, who asked him. He had misgivings, but said he would meet with the kid. The kid turned out to be smart, so my collegue decided to do it and had a good experinece.

    There is a program in NYC though, that matches city kids with STEM research mentors. I think that is a good approach.

  72. “Rhett, I think formal classes are one way to develop good presentation skills but it’s possible that the broader training in literature at elite private schools gives children the vocabulary and references that are needed for many types of speech.”

    Both are necessary. One to learn how to present, the other to have something to present.

  73. lurker – my daughter’s high school (under 120 kids in the class) seems to send at least 3 kids to Stanford every year (we live in the general area) – is that the case with your school?

    I totally agree with Houston on scouts helping develop confidence and success at public speaking. We got multiple compliments over the years from parents who did DS’s Boards of Review as he advanced through the levels up to Eagle scout – but of course he was usually monosyllabic at home with us!!

  74. ssk, perhaps there’s a regional influence?

    In Naviance, we can look at what other schools kids apply to that also apply to a given school. With the Ivies, those are largely other Ivies and Stanford. With Stanford, it’s mostly UCs.

    And of course, keep in mind that your DS will always be an Eagle Scout, at least as long as he is alive.

  75. @Mooshi – give your DS a pat on the back from me.
    I don’t know people in the type of research oriented fields like Mooshi is describing. I do know that the city branch of State U has motor sports engineering and that would be the most likely place DS would end up for a STEM project.
    On English – it took me a few years to become fluent at conversational banter in my interactions with people here. There was no problem with my written or spoken English. There had to be what I term as cultural connectedness to develop that familiarity. This comes with time spent here for most people. This year I will have lived half my life here.

  76. Back to lurker’s question, DS and his friends have noted that there is something of an every other year phenomenon with the most selective schools (e.g., SH). One year there will be a group of kids that are accepted, and nearly all go, to a given school, which leads to a higher acceptance rate the next year, but a lower yield, leading to a lower acceptance rate, but higher yield, the next year, lather, rinse, repeat.

    In Naviance, I can also see the yield for the last few years (for kids from my kids’ school), and very, very few schools have yields over 50%, and it’s easy to see what the common safety schools are, the ones with a lot of kids accepted, but low yields.

  77. rocky,
    yeah, as good/well qualified as the Paly kids are, Stanford needs to share the love with equally well qualified kids from e.g. M-A, Lowell, and even some from the East Bay like Piedmont and Miramonte. Can’t be too concentrated geographically, you know.

  78. Can’t be too concentrated geographically, you know.

    My sister had two roommates her freshman year. One had the last name Lear, as in Learjet. The other was a lower-income girl from New Mexico. Sis was the middle-class local girl, I guess. It really was quite a mix, and I don’t think Sis thought it worked all that well.

  79. Louise, thanks for commenting. I thought more about HM’s comment today. Part of the barrier is our workplace culture, where engineers are expected to go to the technicians’ building to talk to them- they rarely come to ours. My manager is new to the area, his first language is Spanish, and he has been deliberately sitting by the technicians some days in order to overhear conversation about day-to-day problems. We have several engineers whose first language is Spanish and they don’t have the rapport issue. I would say the Indian engineers (who come through a large diameter pipeline from IIT to grad schools in the US) and the single German engineer are the least likely to go out of their way to interact. The engineer from Swaziland had no issues. The Russian engineer couldn’t return to Russia even to visit without being subject to the draft, so he and the technicians had a longstanding joke about how awesome they were, given that he’d rather be with them every day than drafted into the Russian Army.

    Cultural differences are big. I don’t remember any issues with the Scandinavian engineer and the technicians, but I remember chatting with his wife while his toddler/preschool age daughters took off all their clothes to play in the park stream during a departmental picnic (very typically Scandinavian) and how every other engineer occupied himself Elsewhere, From from the Stream, in the park.

  80. @WCE – if your pipeline is the IITs, those people have been in study mode for almost all of their lives. Quite a few of them go to stellar careers as you can see from Silicon Valley. However, for some it is definitely an adjustment. My friend who was from IIT and then got his PhD in the US complained to me that the trading floor of some prestigious firm (Goldman, I think) was too noisy. I am the granddaughter, daughter, wife and SIL of engineers.

  81. Somewhat related — I’m not sure if this show has been mentioned here already, but i caught the finale of Child Genius last night. It’s kinda train wreck TV, but not really. Yes, these kids appear stressed at times, but perhaps not more than many other kids their age, although for different reasons. Anyway, this show seems to be like Jeopardy on steroids. Fascinating. From what I can tell, it’s mostly children of immigrant parents, Asian and eastern Europe?

  82. “I recently read/realized that “Screw your courage to the sticking place” in Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” is originally from “MacBeth”.”

    @WCE — the eye-opener for me was reading Hamlet for the first time and realizing how many sayings I had heard my whole life came from that. 400 years later, and they’re still around.

  83. LfB – we recently took the younger 2 to the livestreamed National Theater production of Hamlet. (They agreed to go only b/c Benedict Cumberbatch was the lead). Maybe one kazillion times during the production, one or the other of them heard a line and turned to me and whispered, “OMG, *that* line is from this play, too?”

  84. It’s an interesting thing, that I have never seen addressed in career planning, how intellectually (or at least educational-attainment) homogenous your workplace is. DH can probably go a whole day without speaking to someone who doesn’t at least have a four year degree. I spend most of my time speaking with support staff, nurses, and patients, few who have read Macbeth or New York Times. Most can talk circles around me on the topic of AK 47s and the local sport teams. I think I get along quite nicely – very similar to my extended family. But, we have some doctors who are not not able to banter with the staff, mostly esl, Asian docs. They banter with me, appropriately, so it is not a lack of ability.

    Anyway, how homogenous is your workplace? When is the last time you worked together to someone with a GED, or an AA?

  85. Ada, I’ve often thought it’s somewhat of a shame that my ex and I didn’t choose each other’s profession instead of our own. He is far more of an intellectual snob than I am and he really gets down about the general lack of intelligence of some of his patients — not from a pure education perspective (though I suspect that is part of it) but more from their persistent failure to follow a modicum of medical advice, etc. It seems to be a real drain on him and always has been.

    Meanwhile, 99% of my daily interactions at work for the past 20 years have been w/ people w/ a minimum of a college degree (support staff) and generally far more than that. I always *think* I would do fine if he and I were to switch positions, but that’s easy for me to say.

  86. Ada – almost all of my work interactions have been with people with 4 yr degrees or higher. We had more admin assistants when I started but very few now. Even they probably had an associates degree.

  87. Ada, that’s an interesting question. Almost everyone I interact with has at least a college degree, and generally more. But because I work with people all over the place, I work with a high degree of diversity in general – pretty evenly split women/men, lots of geographical diversity, and a fair amount of diversity in nationality/ethnicity. I’m convinced the industry I work in is one of the most diverse out there.

  88. Well, since I work with students, obviously I work with people without college degrees :-). Many of our students are transfers from community colleges, so we get that crowd. We have a lot of veterans. And we had a collaboration with the city to work with students who live in homeless shelters. Culturally, well, we have been “certified” as having one of the most ethnically diverse campuses in the US.

  89. I think most of our assistants have HS or associates degrees, but maybe they have 4-year degrees from ‘lesser’ schools? I do often wish that I had more peers at work – so few women attorneys at my firm and there is only one with whom I get along as a friend.

  90. There is such a generational divide here – when I was working at Big Boston Employer, we had a departmental luncheon in the late 90s of 25 or so at which only the 2 lawyers under 40 had even one parent who completed college. The support staff did not have 4 year college degrees, of course, in those days. The VP had gone to work for the IRS at 18 and done his degree at night before going to Big 8 and eventually to his final position. So if any of us lacked the ability to talk to some groups of people, it was to senior management rather than colleagues or techs.

  91. When is the last time you worked together to someone with a GED, or an AA?
    About 10 years ago I worked in the office of a small trash collection company (i.e. not the big national companies). We had a small (4-5 person) customer service/call center + office manager that I supervised and none of them (all women FWIW) had anything beyond a HS diploma. It really did take some getting used to and adjustment on my part after having worked at a big corporation with the vast majority of my daily interactions with people who had MBAs.

    There are still some fairly senior mgmt people here where I’ve worked for the past 8.5 years who do not have a college degree (they all work in behind-the-scenes support roles like facilities). They got where they are by knowing a lot about e.g. facilities maintenance, the right way to do things, and being pretty good with people. I would say almost all of them are within 3 years of retiring.

    I suspect all the admins I run into in my current job have a bachelors. I think everyone else has an advanced degree of some sort.

  92. Within the office I’m surrounded by those with at least a 4 year degree (aside from a few admins). And most of my clients are college educated, but I also spend a great deal of my day dealing with issue resolution that are, on an individual basis, caused by or are affecting people without a college degree. For every phone call, email, presentation, I have to know my audience and talk to them at their level. It can be very frustrating at times.

  93. I’ve had the experience of working with all types , including ex-cons. ( I apologize if that is a non-PC term ) When they started to talk about their time in the “big house” I suspected they were trying to intimidate me . I was responsible for overseeing some of their work , so I definitely had to learn to get along with them.

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