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Tuesday, October 2, 2012


We are always looking for the context to convey RELEVANCE to a conversation.

In the 50's Jonas Salk's work led to the magic inoculation against polio. In the 60's President Kennedy implored us to think in terms of "what we could do for our country." This was a clarion call to my generation to "leave it better than you found it." In the 70's we exited Vietnam, following a controversial war that left its impact on entire generations. In the 80's we saw the rise of women in even more prominent positions, with and over 50% enrollment in law schools and medical schools, along with the fall of the iconically symbolic Berlin Wall.

In the 90's we watched with amazement as the Soviet Union collapsed into 15 separate countries and we experienced the full birth of the Internet. And in 2000 we saw the new millennium ushered in with one of the most ignominious events in our lifetime with the attacks of September 11, 2001. We also saw the Human Genome project completed with all its wondrous implications for our lives and the well being of future generations.

Knowing the enormous variety of reactions you personally had to these events and to other ones you would choose as the signature events for each decade for the past 70 years, it is little wonder this topic always leads to animated conversation at dinner parties. (For fun sometime, try and get people to identify what they perceive as a major event in each century.)

This conversation takes on considerable meaning to our young people going through the Lifeplan program. Their own individual Lifeplan becomes a context for meaning, and they are so engaged in debating their classmates on the merits of world events and which ones are/were the most important and, in particular, how they may be relevant to their own dreams and aspirations.

After more than three years of taking young people through the Lifeplan program, I am still in awe of the success of this process in stimulating young people's riveting engagement in discussing world events, financial literacy, health/nutritional literacy, study skills, community service, and media/social networking literacy as it relates to their Lifeplan.

It is little wonder that many in the educational system are engaged in even more project-based learning. To help create a context that conveys meaning and relevance is the first step and then to invite young people into the conversation and provide more cooperative learning opportunities with their classmates manifests in a stimulating and meaningful learning experience.

Lifeplan provides the context that certainly motivates young people. Adolescents are wired in such a way that if it's about them, they are highly motivated and if it's not, they may be bored to death. That's just reality. Lifeplan is all about them, about what is important to them, about what is meaningful in their lives. They are also highly motivated to interact with one another during this developmental time in their lives when peer relationships are all-important. Not only is this dialogue a rich exchange but it also builds human interaction competencies.

As we start the new school year with thousands of young people across the country going through the Lifeplan program, I'm personally thrilled that I get to share the year with another wonderful Eighth Grade class at Mount Tamalpais School. It's my favorite day of the week!

All the best,


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