I was at a conference at New York University recently called “Life of the Mind.” Its purpose was to use classical and modern texts to examine the meaning of education. At dinner, everyone at my table shared what they do. I said, “I own a tutoring company that specializes on the SAT and ACT.” The fellow attendee sitting next to me exclaimed, “So you’re the enemy!”
In a prior post, I shared what I had learned about how to foster ambition (defined as the drive to excel and succeed). To achieve success, people need skill and knowledge. But the acquisition of skill and knowledge requires the desire to learn. In order to cultivate an appetite for learning, people need to be convinced that learning is meaningful, that it has value, is worthwhile, and has purpose. Purpose, therefore, is the foundation of learning, ambition, and success – it is, after all, why we do whatever we do. So, how do we convince students that all education has meaning and purpose?
Last week, the University of Chicago announced that they are becoming “test-optional.” In other words, they will allow but no longer require domestic applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores for admission consideration. This news comes rather unexpectedly from one of the most selective schools in the country, and immediately raises questions: Why change the requirements? Should I still be preparing for and taking these tests? If I do take the tests, should I still submit my scores to such schools? Will other top schools do likewise?
In every sphere of life, success and the attainment of excellence is impossible without the ambition to learn and to apply that knowledge. The will to succeed is more important than any single tool to do so. We could bludgeon knowledge into the minds of students, but, no matter how hard we try, we will never succeed as thoroughly unless a student wants to learn. Even better: is driven to learn. Best: craves learning. Fostering the appetite for learning and excellence is a topic I have thought about and experimented with for years. Here is what I have learned:
Now that summer is here, it is time to kick back, relax, and never go to school, ever again. Well, definitely kick back and relax, but after school is more school and then real life work, so better to kick back with a book that is fun and will help you stay sharp.