I could (and often do) go ON AND ON AND ON about the many ways that ZCS students have academic and non-cognitive skills experiences during and after school days in this great place to come of age. Professional literature has a good bit to say about how non-cognitive skills and traits align with successful, productive lives, bankable employability, and more. So, I’m proposing that we make a key change of wording in Zionsville to drive more awareness and more thoughtfulness, respect even, about the VITAL ROLE that non-cognitive, non-fixed skills and dispositions play in the building of whole humans better insulated against risk-taking, stress, self-medication, or worse.
Academics/cognitive ability, knowledge, learnedness and knowing how to learn, THESE ARE VITAL!
Let’s now make obsolete the statement that non-cognitive/soft skills are “important” right after having extolled the imperative of strong cognitive skills. Yep, a pretty small change, but building awareness and action can assist us in partnering to instill this truth through experiences that elevate ZCS students.
Please do sustain and celebrate the systematic ways that you enhance non-cognitive skills in your home through playing board games together, going on night walk-and-talks (no matter how old the kids are!), having dinner together without technology, and much more beyond simple but important interactions. Please keep helping us celebrate and foster the thousands of kids who are growing through team effort in athletics (youth league through varsity), clubs and Eagle Recreation, service opportunities, and more.
The ZCS-parent-student partnership has established a great tradition of academic successes and college-going with impressive scholarship awards (more than $15M for the Class of 2016). Year-in and year-out I meet our seniors and marvel at the truly beautiful mix of cognitive and interpersonal skills, dispositions, and courtesy that happened only through the diligence of graduates’ first teachers (their parents). And yet, I believe quite fervently that the world (ubiquitous social media) in which our children are coming of age has in the past decade mounted a formidable challenge to our partnering efforts to grow non-cognitive skills in these youth. We still win against this insurgency in the vast majority of cases, but too many times I see that kids with everything going for them are self-loathing or professing emptiness, stress, anxiety, sleeplessness, and abusing substances. Too many times I see that self-defeating and even self-harming behaviors transcend that old saw of merely being the stupidity attributable to youth (especially in the life and death examples).
Great academic outcomes… Yes. The vast majority of young people thriving and building so effectively BOTH of the vital components of growth we dreamed for them when first they made us parents… Yes. Something brewing in the national culture that is manifesting with negatives for too many of our young people… You bet.
Bumping NCS (non-cognitive skills) up to “vital” status is not likely enough, but it can help to foster awareness and action by parents, teachers, counselors, and other community members/entities who can grow in attentiveness to how we can both sustain ZCS successes and go from remarkably good to really great (read: safer, better at building the human capital that is our youth, and stronger in every way).
Scott Robison, Superintendent
Zionsville Community Schools