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Diving Deep

Students need opportunities to explore their passions

Our entire educational system has gone through such enormous change and turmoil in recent years that significant concerns abound for parents and teachers alike. And in a metropolitan environment like Syracuse, these concerns create their own set of special challenges.

A major focus of this concern is the debate over the Common Core.

The goals of the Common Core are admirable: to help ensure that students graduate with the skills and knowledge that they need to be successful in the 21st century. However, the implementation of the Common Core has become a lightning rod for controversy.

Everyone from lawmakers to administrators, teachers and parents have pushed back, pushed away and protested against curriculums and tests that are supposed to support the Common Core—saying that they are too focused on trying to create test takers and not focused enough on trying to get our kids ready for their future in the world after graduation.

That’s the issue that we face in Central New York, and it’s an issue that millions of Americans face across the country.

There are many ways to address this issue. And while there is no single solution, there are multiple solutions that can coexist in a way that provides our children with an education that prepares them for life.

Part of the solution is ensuring we diversify our educational options. As noted by Daniel Coyle, the author of the 2009 New York Times bestseller The Talent Code, there are three essential elements that lead to cultivating greatness in any field: time, passion and feedback. We need to apply those three elements to our children’s education, and diversifying their education enables us to do that.

The success of our children’s future starts with decisions that we make very early in their lives. Our children must learn as early as possible—in pre-K and kindergarten—how to take control of their own learning, and do so at a rate that is suited for the best possible outcome.

Syracuse is a stronger community for having such diverse educational options. Independent, public, parochial and charter schools complement each other, as education is not a one-size-fits-all approach. In an independent school, for example, students are able to take deep dives into subjects and explore their own passions.

The switch to an independent school may not be possible for every family. But there are complementary educational options offered by independent schools and other organizations through summer and after school programs, serving as additional components for preparing children to succeed on more than just standardized tests.

When there are students who have a metaphorical “academic rocket” strapped to their backs, it’s devastating if there are no resources to help them take off and realize their full potential. We need to give students the ability to light those fuses, provide educational opportunities that transcend teaching to a test, and take advantage of everything our teachers have to offer.


Scott Wiggins is head of school at Manlius Pebble Hill.

© Family Times: The Parenting Guide of Central New York