My Profile of an Ideal Graduate (and the next question)…

Thanks to all those who posted their ideas about what an ideal graduate might look like. As promised, I’m providing my profile and thinking here as well.

My profile of an ideal graduate considers what I think our students will need to be equipped to survive and thrive in a lightning fast-paced, increasingly automated, and global economy. It also considers what they will need to live fulfilled and happy lives.

Basing some of my thinking from a study by the Fordham Institute a few years ago called “What Parents Want: Education Preferences and Trade-Offs” and Tony Wagner’s “7 Survival Skills,”  which we re-branded in Eagle County as “Global-Ready Skills,” I will lay out some of my thinking on where I believe we need to be headed if our education system is to deliver on what our kids will really need for their future.

In my opinion, an ideal graduate possesses the following:

1. Solid Employable Skills. A major purpose of education is to provide people with the skills they need to earn a decent living, provide for their families, and contribute to their communities. In order to do this, they need specific and targeted skills which can be acquired from a variety of different sources, depending heavily upon the field in which they wish to work. These include (but are not limited to) skills acquired in elementary and secondary education, college or graduate-school, career-technical education, or experienced-based learning which will allow them to compete and earn a living. Going beyond this, they need to be able to continue to learn throughout their lives, and adapt to changing conditions and circumstances which are almost a certainty in a shifting economy.

2. Civic Responsibility. As the founding fathers believed, for our way of life to succeed, we need engaged and capable citizens who can participate in our democratic republic. They will understand the concept of balanced power present in our Constitution, and the importance of the human rights identified within it. Beyond this, the ideal graduate will not only understand how to navigate within our system of government, but also will understand that they have a civic responsibility to engage, to collaborate with others, and be part of something larger than just themselves.

3. Scientific Reasoning and Critical Thinking. The ideal graduate will understand the concepts central to scientific reasoning and critical thinking. This should include understanding and evaluating evidence, detecting bias, having a strong grasp of logic, and working to identify and uproot dogmatic thinking. It also comes with a strong sense of curiosity – a childlike quality of asking “how” and “why” that we can (sadly) lose as we grow older.

4. An Entrepreneurial Spirit. My ideal graduate would also have an entrepreneurial spirit. This comes with a desire to start things, to pioneer, to do things previously held as impossible. There are no sectors within our society (education included) which cannot benefit from a willingness to innovate and try something different. It also comes with the toughness to recover from failure, and learn to adapt and try again.

5. A Love of Humanity’s Beauty. While we are certainly earning and thinking machines, our species is also capable of creating incredible beauty in the forms of art, dance, music, writing, and other forms of aesthetic expression. My ideal graduate will be able to understand, appreciate, and even contribute to these forms of beauty, and others we have not even imagined.

6. Empathy and the Moral Core. My ideal graduate would have a strong moral compass based on values including honesty, human kindness, generosity, and responsibility. While it is not (in my professional opinion) the role of public education to impose this moral core on a student, it is our responsibility to awaken it within each student, and each ideal graduate should have a set of foundational principles or values by which they live their lives and make decisions.

7. An Understanding of Themselves & a Passion for the Future. Human beings possess a wonderful variety of talents and abilities. Regrettably, school has a habit of narrowly focusing on just a few of these instead of being expansive in trying to help each student identify their strengths and gifts and how to capitalize on those. We have millions upon millions of past graduates who were taught by school that they were not very smart – only to then go on and lead wonderfully successful lives, proving school wrong. My ideal graduate would leave our schools knowing themselves, appreciating their gifts, and have a clear-eyed plan for where they want to go next.

So, the next question. In looking at the profiles of an ideal graduate from the last post, as well as my list above, are our schools configured and ready to deliver students with these kinds of skills? What do you think?

8 thoughts on “My Profile of an Ideal Graduate (and the next question)…

  1. Excellent synopsis, Dr. Glass.

    I am not sure our schools are equipped to send all of our graduates off with all of these characteristics, but I believe it can be done. One component I would like very much to see added is a greater emphasis on community service. Work with people of varying ages and backgrounds to promote a greater connection to the global society our kids will find themselves part of is essential in developing communication skills, empathy, and willingness to work for good.

    Another is those communication skills themselves. Figuring out how to convey messages and explore ideas and engage in professional nuanced debate while also listening to others is hugely important.

    Thank you for your willingness to engage with YOUR community.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Amen, Dr. Glass! I love each of the skills you’ve identified above, and agree with those who commented previously with skills they’re looking for. I especially love the moral compass – so important in this age of social media for students to have empathy & respect for one another, regardless of our differences! Yes, I believe our schools are configured and ready to deliver students with these skills. I believe students, staff, parents, and community would be supportive of an initiative to strive toward these ends – just need the scaffolding and expectations in place to make it happen!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love these ideas – and especially your willingness to engage our community in the conversation. I hope more folks speak up and out.

    Here’s what I see in that list . . .a set of values and morals that, unfortunately, not everyone in our community holds in high regard. In order for this “ideal graduate” to exist, we cannot expect that our schools alone can instill all these values. We need strong support from the entire Jeffco community. Unless the entire community is actually committed to providing a strong public education to our youth, it will be difficult to achieve. People will need to stop “talking” about public education, and actually start taking steps truly to support public education. It clearly will take our entire village!


  4. Hi Dr. Glass, and the JeffCo Community,

    First I want to say Thank You for the thoughtfulness and extent of this discussion. The only thing I would add is the ability to connect and having meaningful conversations with other in a local and global community, which I think falls under a few of the categories above. I emphasize it because this has been the single-most thing that has contributed to success in my own life.

    Second, I’d like to add to Wendy’s comment that it is so important for parents to be involved in their child’s education. We cannot, as a community, let our schools do ALL the lifting when it comes to developing an ideal graduate. We have a responsibility. So however we can make it easier for our community to find ways to participate is so important.

    This is our first year in JeffCo schools and I am excited to be a part of the community!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love this and then I go back to the Jeffco 2020 committee and I still have the same questions. All competencies are wonderful and everything I would desire for my child and all her friends to receive. But, if these will be our ideals, how do we measure some of these items?
      I’m sure you have looked at the 2020 Vision but I really don’t think we’ve ever fully answered the question of how we measure this success for all students or even how we get there.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hello Dr. Glass – I enjoyed hearing from and talking to you on your July 10 whistle-stop tour!

    As Shawna said above, the real issue is how to measure all of these skills. I also wonder if we should, but know that students and parents often do not value work/assignments/projects/ learning that is not evaluated in some way. On the other hand, changing the way we teach and evaluate may help. Problem/project based learning involves many of these skills with natural (good and bad) consequences and opportunities or learning without having to specifically evaluate the less objective skills. This would require time and resources to help teachers understand, plan and evaluate this new style, but some are already embracing this mode of learning.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I appreciate this list and how they speak to the holistic nature of student agency and student identity. I would hope that teachers hold these values and ideas as a driving influence for teacher and student interactions. I also ask the question, “What hinders the development of these skills and dispositions?” I would pose the idea that teachers at the elementary level must negotiate the relationship between what they feel good learning looks like and the ways that we evaluate/grade students. If you look at an elementary school report card, you might ask yourself, “Since this is the evaluation tool that’s used to connect schools with families, does it effectively become a ‘drive’ for what we hope for in our students?” The elementary report card may be something to consider because I feel that it heavily influences what we are looking for in our students. Perhaps it’s time to change the descriptors on a report card and we consider how these descriptors can be drivers for what we are looking for in student learning.

    Liked by 1 person

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