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You might be interested in Paul Tough's new book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiousity and the Hidden Power of Character. NPR had an interview with the author this week. You can read more or listen to the story by going here.

 

Among the good qualities that I believe homeschooling high school can help develop are grit and curiosity. So maybe Mr. Tough is preaching to the choir??

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I heard part of the NPR interview and I must admit I was intrigued.

 

But honestly, I think home schools have some of the same problems as other places, it may be even easier to be a helicopter parent when you home school. So I think it all depends on the family.

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I heard part of the NPR interview and I must admit I was intrigued.

 

But honestly, I think home schools have some of the same problems as other places, it may be even easier to be a helicopter parent when you home school. So I think it all depends on the family.

 

True, but I do like to remind parents who fear homeschooling high school that this is the time when possibilities can really open.

 

To be honest, I think I was intrigued by the interview because I know a couple of kids who are taking leaves of absence from college--and I have been thinking about what has gone wrong for them. They are just so unsure of what to do with their lives. I can't help but wonder if the standardized testing race set them on a deliberate path where they were not asking themselves key questions on their own interests and passions.

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To be honest, I think I was intrigued by the interview because I know a couple of kids who are taking leaves of absence from college--and I have been thinking about what has gone wrong for them. They are just so unsure of what to do with their lives. I can't help but wonder if the standardized testing race set them on a deliberate path where they were not asking themselves key questions on their own interests and passions.

 

Jane, thanks for posting this link and your comments!

 

I'll just say that confusion about 'path' happens a lot here, and there is not the push for standardized tests....but they have other problems...(hoping to discuss soon with a thread comparing US and Europe once I have time to think more coherently)...

 

The character issue does seem so all important though! How some people can 'melt' under duress and others are energized...And then too, the role of caring people who take the time to invest in others lives, who believe in the troubled person's capacities...can't be forgotten...

 

Thanks Jane!

Joan

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To be honest, I think I was intrigued by the interview because I know a couple of kids who are taking leaves of absence from college--and I have been thinking about what has gone wrong for them. They are just so unsure of what to do with their lives. I can't help but wonder if the standardized testing race set them on a deliberate path where they were not asking themselves key questions on their own interests and passions.

 

Am I the only one who knows all kinds of kids who have had support, explored their field of choice in high school, and STILL had a major change of plans in college?

 

I think people head in the "wrong" direction (for them) for many reasons. Some involve the kid not being supported enough in high school, but there are lots of other "reasonable" reasons --

 

1) Fields have pluses and minuses that sometimes it's hard to see from the outside. How many of us have taken a class in an area only to find out that the subject wasn't at all what we expected? You can volunteer in history museums and take history classes in high school but still be surprised by the academic approach to history in college! And if the surprise doesn't hit until sophomore or junior year.....

 

2) And sometimes a dream field can be impossible to get into because of finances, requiring a dramatic change during senior year of college. One field I know of now pays $30K or so with a Master's and requires 2-3 years of internship/volunteer work in order to get into the master's program. A detail like that is almost impossible to discover during high school since it wasn't like that a few decades ago so the folks we knew in the field hadn't experienced that. (Am I the only person who knows several premeds who decided to become a PA instead since it involves much less debt and less time in school? But the PA required transferring or taking a 5th year or....to complete the slightly different prereqs)

 

3) And we can all fall for siren songs. A kid who excels in a relevant EC and is fascinated by the field (reading multiple magazines, discussing it nonstop) , taking multiple college classes in it in high school) heads off to college to major in THE FIELD. He discovers that the field has a fairly rigid framework that no one at his college questions in any way. In fact, it is almost impossible to get an academic paper published if you question the prevailing framework......He bails, but then the question is, "What now?"

 

4) Parents. How many kids listen to their parents' suggestion (med school maybe), think it sounds good (and takes off the pressure), dutifully does the volunteer work at the local hospital, excels in bio, etc., only to discover somewhere during organic chem or even when they come face to face with the reality of how much med school will cost that the med school dream doesn't mean that much to them -- that it ws the parents' dream and not the kid's? It takes a strong parent to back off and let a kid explore and flounder and not just provide the "right" answer (law school, joining dad's comany, etc.)

 

In an ideal world, kids would head off to college with a good idea of their interests and strengths, but some aspects of any field truly are hidden no matter how hard you look until you are pretty heavily into the field.....

Edited by Gwen in VA
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Am I the only one who knows all kinds of kids who have had support, explored their field of choice in high school, and STILL had a major change of plans in college?

 

**snipped**

 

In an ideal world, kids would head off to college with a good idea of their interests and strengths, but some aspects of any field truly are hidden no matter how hard you look until you are pretty heavily into the field.....

 

Sure Gwen. I don't expect kids to foresee all that is involved with a major or career path while still in high school or as a college freshman. But some kids seem better equipped to jump from one thing to another. One of my son's friends realized his during first year of college that he hates chemistry. Thus he is no longer in biologial sciences but majoring in computer science.

 

But I also know kids who are having a hard time figuring out what it is they want to do. They are in a real funk about it. For one, after taking a year away from his LAC, he decided that he does not want that sort of education at all. He is in an artisan trade program. And I say great for him because he has a plan.

 

How do you help the kids without plans? Suppose your kid takes a leave of absence or drops out of college. Depending on the economy within your geographic area, that kid may have a hard time finding a job. What do you as a parent do to support the kid?

 

I know two nineteen/twenty year olds whose parents seem as baffled as the kids. Did the kids lack the grit to tough it out in college? Maybe. Is college not the place for them? Do they just need to grow up or face the realities of the working world? Is the onus on the kids themselves?

 

Dropping out of college or taking a leave is not the end of the world. It just seems that to move forward requires a plan and it may not be the plan that was initially determined in high school. It could be radically different.

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Dropping out of college or taking a leave is not the end of the world. It just seems that to move forward requires a plan and it may not be the plan that was initially determined in high school. It could be radically different.

 

:iagree:

 

How do you help the kids without plans?

 

Good question.

 

I do know that doing something -- anything -- is better than sitting around waiting for inspiration to strike. But does anyone have a BTDT story on this -- it might be good to hear how a young person heading towards nowhere/nothing found his direction!

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Sure Gwen. I don't expect kids to foresee all that is involved with a major or career path while still in high school or as a college freshman. But some kids seem better equipped to jump from one thing to another. One of my son's friends realized his during first year of college that he hates chemistry. Thus he is no longer in biologial sciences but majoring in computer science.

 

But I also know kids who are having a hard time figuring out what it is they want to do. They are in a real funk about it. For one, after taking a year away from his LAC, he decided that he does not want that sort of education at all. He is in an artisan trade program. And I say great for him because he has a plan.

 

How do you help the kids without plans? Suppose your kid takes a leave of absence or drops out of college. Depending on the economy within your geographic area, that kid may have a hard time finding a job. What do you as a parent do to support the kid?

 

I know two nineteen/twenty year olds whose parents seem as baffled as the kids. Did the kids lack the grit to tough it out in college? Maybe. Is college not the place for them? Do they just need to grow up or face the realities of the working world? Is the onus on the kids themselves?

 

Dropping out of college or taking a leave is not the end of the world. It just seems that to move forward requires a plan and it may not be the plan that was initially determined in high school. It could be radically different.

 

 

You ask some very good questions. I agree, getting these kids to the place of developing a plan and then following through is the key and it's complicated.

 

I can't say that the over attention given to standardized tests is the main culprit, but I do think it is one of the culprits in a gang of "the usual suspects". The more "test" focused our high schools have become, the more they've funneled students all through "one path". No one ever stopped to consider if that path was the right one for EVERYBODY.

 

Woodworking, metalworking, practical drafting, CAD, Home Economics - you know, the kind my mother had in high school when you could "major" in it and after four years were qualified at 18 to run a catering business or design sewing patterns...that kind of Home EC!!! - you name it, it's all been eliminated. The net result being that the "world" of the high schooler has become very narrow. Add to that a record low in the amount of travel high schoolers are exposed to due to economics or attendance policies, the lack of meaningful field trips, the lack of career counseling from knowledgeable individuals - the average school guidance counselor of today is TOTALLY CLUELESS in this regard and I know that from first hand experience having completed a semester stint as one and attended a seminar with more than 500 of these people and the conversations were :001_huh: - parents working longer hours which means less time conversing with and guiding their soon to be young adults, etc.

 

These kids are moved through the conveyor belt of high school and with an ever narrowing list of academic, career, and extracurricular options offered. That conveyor belt is taking them through a mindbogglingly narrow channel of options. It's not helping anyone find out who they want to be when they grow up!

 

Our school has elminated AP's and honors classes in favor of putting more remedial classes on each teacher's schedule. What is left for the college bound student? Nothing! They've elminated vocational studies. They've eliminated field trips except the trip to the courthouse for the students in Civics/Government class. They've eliminated career day. They've nixed assemblies with special speakers. The school day has gotten longer, but not wiser. The attendance policy is draconian. So, forget it if your child has the option to do something amazing such as volunteer in a foreign country for two weeks with 4-H...it's only the homeschoolers and private schooled kids taking advantage of these options anymore. More class time is devoted to standardized test prep than it is to actually learning concepts thoroughly. The English classes will no longer actually read, gasp, books! They bought Norton Anthologies of English Literature and they'll only read excerpts and have 20 minutes per class period of multiple choice English quizzes. :banghead::banghead::banghead: All of this just narrows their field of discovery to a pitiful level.

 

Add to that the extreme amount of time students spend on video games and what not which isn't exactly helping them expand their horizons and well, it's a recipe for disaster.

 

My own children love video games, but the reality is, if I don't reign it in, they'd waste a lot of brain cells on it and not be pursuing other interests, reading books, perusing the latest issue of National Geographic, tinkering with the broken engine on the go-kart, building rockets with a competitive rocketry team, programming with mindstorms, playing chess, etc. all of which promotes logical thinking which in turn helps one figure out what one is good at and what one wants to be when one grows up.

 

This nation seriously need a kick in its educational butt! The whole system needs an overhaul.

 

Faith

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...I know two nineteen/twenty year olds whose parents seem as baffled as the kids. Did the kids lack the grit to tough it out in college? Maybe. Is college not the place for them? Do they just need to grow up or face the realities of the working world? Is the onus on the kids themselves?...

 

I think depression is often a major factor in the baffling cases. I know young adults who fit the "adult children of alcoholics" profile and are probably unable to settle into a satisfactory adult life (satisfactory to themselves) until they have done some healing. I know young adults who have medical issues, especially ones which involve personality-altering drugs. I know ones who have been side-tracked by street drugs, some of which seem to sap one's ambitions. I know some with such gentle souls that faced with the realities of world, they become temporarily immobilized by fear. In all these cases, waiting a bit until one has dealt with the problem may not be a bad thing.

 

I also know (and knew) plenty of people who just plain haven't figured out what they want to do. I wonder if perhaps societal expectation and family pressure used to force these students to pick a major, any major, graduate, and then pick a job, any job. I wonder if perhaps a generation which suffered through their parents' mid-life crises isn't perhaps being reluctant to put that sort of pressure on their children, with the result that a fair number of the milder sort of children are being allowed to stall rather than go with a reasonable temporary plan. I also wonder if the high cost of college makes the parents (and some of the more aware students) less willing to major in an enjoyable liberal arts degree and aquire a degree that isn't linked to a specific career goal. When I was in school, many students majored in whatever they felt like studying, got "an education", and left worrying about a job/career until after college graduation.

 

Just a few thoughts... I especially wanted to mention depression. The whole thing is a vicious circle - a little depression makes one less able to settle on a major/career and then the lack of major/career leads to more depression as one wonders what on earth is wrong with one.

 

Nan

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Woodworking, metalworking, practical drafting, CAD, Home Economics - you know, the kind my mother had in high school when you could "major" in it and after four years were qualified at 18 to run a catering business or design sewing patterns...that kind of Home EC!!! - you name it, it's all been eliminated. The net result being that the "world" of the high schooler has become very narrow. Add to that a record low in the amount of travel high schoolers are exposed to due to economics or attendance policies, the lack of meaningful field trips, the lack of career counseling from knowledgeable individuals - the average school guidance counselor of today is TOTALLY CLUELESS in this regard and I know that from first hand experience having completed a semester stint as one and attended a seminar with more than 500 of these people and the conversations were :001_huh: - parents working longer hours which means less time conversing with and guiding their soon to be young adults, etc.

 

 

I think this is really important. Kids spend all day in school and often have lots of homework, and then they want some time to just hang out or read a book for fun too. But if you are a teen that might be interested in going into carpentry, or fashion design, when are you going to learn these skills that take a lot of time to develop? If you don't have a family member to teach you it may be hard to find instruction at all and self-teaching can be frustrating for skill based activities, especially at the beginning. And gaining expertise is time demanding - if the child is really focused he or she may get it, but it seems unreasonable to say that all kids that want to go in those directions should be spending the majority of their free time on them.

 

And if a student thinks he might be interested in, say, a food related industry or welding or whatever, it seems kind of crazy that he'll probably be 18 and actually enrolled in a program before discovering it isn't his thing. It seems very wasteful.

 

I think it is particularly these kinds of non-university careers that kids miss out on finding out about.

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I think this is really important. Kids spend all day in school and often have lots of homework, and then they want some time to just hang out or read a book for fun too. But if you are a teen that might be interested in going into carpentry, or fashion design, when are you going to learn these skills that take a lot of time to develop? If you don't have a family member to teach you it may be hard to find instruction at all and self-teaching can be frustrating for skill based activities, especially at the beginning. And gaining expertise is time demanding - if the child is really focused he or she may get it, but it seems unreasonable to say that all kids that want to go in those directions should be spending the majority of their free time on them.

 

And if a student thinks he might be interested in, say, a food related industry or welding or whatever, it seems kind of crazy that he'll probably be 18 and actually enrolled in a program before discovering it isn't his thing. It seems very wasteful.

 

I think it is particularly these kinds of non-university careers that kids miss out on finding out about.

 

 

Thanks for agreeing with me! ;)

 

Yes, that's the rub. There are sooooooo many skills that need to be built upon and before 18. I took piano lessons from the age of 5 - 16.5 It took those 11 years to become proficient to the place that I could be good enough to be accepted to a uni or LAC as a piano major. When I joined band in 5th grade. Now, that same district doesn't start band until 7th grade due to budget cuts. Five years is not enough time to become proficient on an instrument. It's getting harder and harder for colleges to find brass and woodwind players to fill their orchestras.

 

Cabinetry isn't learned in four years. That's a skill that begins development when the 12 year old turns in his or her first shelf to the 4-H fair and then it has to grow and grow. Waiting until one is 18 to think, "Hmmmm. I might like to be a carpenter some day!" means the student is going to be 28 or 29 before they become noteworthy at it and can make a living from it.

 

The world of this generation has become too tunnel visioned and it's damaging. Students need exposure to a much wider variety of options in order to have a clue what they might be good at or interested enough in to form a plan and make it happen.

 

I don't blame many of them for spinning their wheels and moving through the universe like zombies.

 

But, the schools aren't entirely to blame and it isn't all about money either. Parents need to take some blame here, too. I cringe when the traveling art exhibit comes to the library and it's FREE ADMISSION and I hear parents say, "Meh. I'm not taking my kid. Who cares?" or when FREE admission day to the Midland Center for the Arts and DOW Museum (Natural History & science with hands on exhibits for ages 4-13) is coming up and, "Meh. How boring! I'm not wasting my time to take them." Or take your child to work day comes along and the parents refuse to tell the school to take a flying leap from its draconian attendance policies so their child can see what it's like to be dad or mom all day at work. Or a free Bach concert, or the Woodworking exhibit, or our annual FREE SCIENCE EXTRAVAGANZA SPONSORED BY 4-H FOR ANY STUDENTS AGES 5-19 IN THE COUNTY is in full swing and, "Meh. We are going to stay home and watch movies." Or....

 

My list of "ors" is so huge that it can't be contained in one post.

 

Sigh....parents with that attitude aren't helping anything I can tell you that. Not to mention that there are volunteer opportunities that will expose kids to a number of options. DD was all set for Veterinary Medicine until she volunteered with our church group to do hospital calls for a few weeks. She didn't end up spending time with the elderly. She ended up following around some very, very patient nurses and doctors who quickly recognized that Miss 100 questions, was STRONGLY interested in what was going on in their line of work. She changed to human medicine that day and never looked back.

 

Of course, I'm not opinionated, now am I? :lol::D

 

Faith

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Faith, your image of the "conveyor belt of high school" is well stated. This thread gave me something to think about on my afternoon walk.

 

Going back to my own high school days, I remember how some kids did not give a lot of thought to their futures. If they were from a GM family, they knew that a good paying job on the line awaited. Some kids came from families with a tradition of military service; it was assumed that they would join the Navy or whatever. So maybe it is no different that now that kids are expected to go to college and often follow in the family footsteps.

 

Nan mentioned depression. Yes! But what has caused the funk? Were the kids depressed before arriving at the college or did they become depressed because they felt they did not fit into the program?

 

Bluegoat has also mentioned something important. There are a number of tech programs available but many kids know nothing about them. Is that because of the emphasis on the four year degree?

 

And I really don't want to be the one questioning the validity of the four year degree. I loved, loved, loved undergraduate. My husband and I have had careers that benefitted from our graduate studies. Education is important to me.

 

To parents of high schoolers I would say use this time not only to read great books, learn how to write and develop math skills, but also use this time to test the waters. This might be the opportunity your kid has wanted to spend a month hiking on the Appalachian Trail or learning millinery or how to build a sound system. I hope everyone encourages their teens to jump off the conveyor belt!

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Cabinetry isn't learned in four years. That's a skill that begins development when the 12 year old turns in his or her first shelf to the 4-H fair and then it has to grow and grow. Waiting until one is 18 to think, "Hmmmm. I might like to be a carpenter some day!" means the student is going to be 28 or 29 before they become noteworthy at it and can make a living from it.

 

 

Ah. I come from a trade family, as does my husband. The men in my family are aircraft engineers, my FIL is a brick layer and my husband is an electronic tech working for a railway.

 

They all complain about the young people coming into the trades. They talk about how these guys (mostly males) have little common sense, little safety sense and not much of a work ethic. My dad and FIL swear up and down that it wasn't the same 20, 30, 40 years ago.

 

There's the lack of vocational options in school but I'm also wondering if it's also because, for many of these kids, their apprenticeships are also their first real experience with work. My husband was a labourer for his dad and worked in the woods with his uncle when he was a teenager. That kind of serious and hard work doesn't seem to be common for kids these days.

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Faith.....you nailed this one....

 

The college and after high school focus is so narrow, Not everyone can see through the tunnel....sigh.

 

 

 

 

 

You ask some very good questions. I agree, getting these kids to the place of developing a plan and then following through is the key and it's complicated.

 

I can't say that the over attention given to standardized tests is the main culprit, but I do think it is one of the culprits in a gang of "the usual suspects". The more "test" focused our high schools have become, the more they've funneled students all through "one path". No one ever stopped to consider if that path was the right one for EVERYBODY.

 

Woodworking, metalworking, practical drafting, CAD, Home Economics - you know, the kind my mother had in high school when you could "major" in it and after four years were qualified at 18 to run a catering business or design sewing patterns...that kind of Home EC!!! - you name it, it's all been eliminated. The net result being that the "world" of the high schooler has become very narrow. Add to that a record low in the amount of travel high schoolers are exposed to due to economics or attendance policies, the lack of meaningful field trips, the lack of career counseling from knowledgeable individuals - the average school guidance counselor of today is TOTALLY CLUELESS in this regard and I know that from first hand experience having completed a semester stint as one and attended a seminar with more than 500 of these people and the conversations were :001_huh: - parents working longer hours which means less time conversing with and guiding their soon to be young adults, etc.

 

These kids are moved through the conveyor belt of high school and with an ever narrowing list of academic, career, and extracurricular options offered. That conveyor belt is taking them through a mindbogglingly narrow channel of options. It's not helping anyone find out who they want to be when they grow up!

 

Our school has elminated AP's and honors classes in favor of putting more remedial classes on each teacher's schedule. What is left for the college bound student? Nothing! They've elminated vocational studies. They've eliminated field trips except the trip to the courthouse for the students in Civics/Government class. They've eliminated career day. They've nixed assemblies with special speakers. The school day has gotten longer, but not wiser. The attendance policy is draconian. So, forget it if your child has the option to do something amazing such as volunteer in a foreign country for two weeks with 4-H...it's only the homeschoolers and private schooled kids taking advantage of these options anymore. More class time is devoted to standardized test prep than it is to actually learning concepts thoroughly. The English classes will no longer actually read, gasp, books! They bought Norton Anthologies of English Literature and they'll only read excerpts and have 20 minutes per class period of multiple choice English quizzes. :banghead::banghead::banghead: All of this just narrows their field of discovery to a pitiful level.

 

Add to that the extreme amount of time students spend on video games and what not which isn't exactly helping them expand their horizons and well, it's a recipe for disaster.

 

My own children love video games, but the reality is, if I don't reign it in, they'd waste a lot of brain cells on it and not be pursuing other interests, reading books, perusing the latest issue of National Geographic, tinkering with the broken engine on the go-kart, building rockets with a competitive rocketry team, programming with mindstorms, playing chess, etc. all of which promotes logical thinking which in turn helps one figure out what one is good at and what one wants to be when one grows up.

 

This nation seriously need a kick in its educational butt! The whole system needs an overhaul.

 

Faith

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Ah. I come from a trade family, as does my husband. The men in my family are aircraft engineers, my FIL is a brick layer and my husband is an electronic tech working for a railway.

 

They all complain about the young people coming into the trades. They talk about how these guys (mostly males) have little common sense, little safety sense and not much of a work ethic. My dad and FIL swear up and down that it wasn't the same 20, 30, 40 years ago.

 

There's the lack of vocational options in school but I'm also wondering if it's also because, for many of these kids, their apprenticeships are also their first real experience with work. My husband was a labourer for his dad and worked in the woods with his uncle when he was a teenager. That kind of serious and hard work doesn't seem to be common for kids these days.

 

:iagree: we see it in our business too. The guys want to work just little enough to get a paycheck....and long enough to qualify for unemployment....

It's really ok, because their wives or girlfriends have " real" jobs with benefits....and they really want to get to the next level in their video games:glare:

 

 

ETA: It could also have to do with The laws that are there to protect children.....as in, they can not be on construction sites or use power tools.....so, we can not even take on a High School apprentice, though we would LOVE to. By the time the kids are 18 and have NEVER been allowed to handle a power tool, or a torch, or GASP, a LAWNMOWER...... seems they have missed the window of opportunity to see if they are handy....and if their parents do not come up with projects ( like my dad would find old cars for my brother to fix and then Dad would use them for ages until he found a new car for brother to tinker on and fix....)then these kids do not have the idea that they CAN work with their hands to earn a living. THAT and there is a stigma associated with trades.....only the LOSERS go to the trade school over the regular high school. ONLY the real losers are tradesmen and not computer engineers. You would be surprised how many computer engineers need us to fix their furnace or their toilet....and we need them to do their thing. You would also be surprised how many very educated people do not want to PAY for the services we render, because somehow, if you do not have a degree, but a trade, you do not qualify to make a decent living.....oh, just don't get me started!!!!!

Edited by Mommyfaithe
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Bluegoat has also mentioned something important. There are a number of tech programs available but many kids know nothing about them. Is that because of the emphasis on the four year degree?

 

 

 

YES!!!!!!! They know about many of them, but the stigma is they are LOSERS if they go. My df's dd is doing a tech track in Culinary skills and my nephew is doing the Tech classes in aviation. My sons did the Oil burner tech classes and Air conditioning and Heat pump schools. These are all homeschooled kids, so their desire to learn something REAL and little exposure to the LOSER stigma helped:D. BUT, they put so much more into these opportunities than the other kids coming in from PS, who already felt degraded that they didn't make the academic cut, they already had given up on learning or having an experience, and we're going through the motions so they could graduate and get Mom off their backs. The guidance office does NOT send their A students to go work on car engines or to frost cakes......no......they send their failing kids, their kids who do not go with the flow, The kids who are ready to drop out, Or those who have a court order to remain in school or head straight to Juvey. SIGH!!!! Now, you get me started.....sigh......

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...There's the lack of vocational options in school but I'm also wondering if it's also because, for many of these kids, their apprenticeships are also their first real experience with work. My husband was a labourer for his dad and worked in the woods with his uncle when he was a teenager. That kind of serious and hard work doesn't seem to be common for kids these days...

 

Perhaps families are substituting sports and hoping it will be the same thing. It isn't. It helps, obviously, but there are some rather glaring differences.

 

We substituted doing jobs for family members, volunteer work, and sports for a job and hoped that there would be enough overlap that we could get away with it. Non-family jobs for teenagers where the teenager works for someone are relatively scarce here, and transportation and scheduling was challenging enough to discourage us from even trying.

 

We were very careful to make sure that ours developed basic skills, things like the ability to work with tools (although mine had limited experience with power tools), camping skills, craft skills, and boating skills. This was relatively easy for my family because there most of the adults in our clan do this sort of thing and have the time and the energy and the patience to include little ones in the project. LOL - the adults look forward to the time when the little ones will be bigger and they (the adults) will be able to do bigger projects because they will have help, or the time when they can delegate some things. Also, we know that life is easier, more secure, and more pleasant if you can build your own garden shed and sew your own Halloween costumes. It is important to have hobbies, as an adult, and it isn't that much fun, at the end of a long day of work, to have to develop hobby-type skills from scratch. It sort of defeats the purpose of the hobby. It turns the hobby from something relaxing and fun to something hard and dangerous. It is better to learn to use tools with someone else watching to see where all your fingers are.

 

This isn't too hard for my family, but I have had parents ask me how my children became so competent and how they can have their children learn the same thing. It is the parents who work for a company that are asking, not the one who work independently (common in our town). School and scouts and 4-H are good ways to do this, but the school system has dropped all shop and home ec to make more room for fine arts (more prestigious - sigh). Recently, they have added back in robotics. I wanted my son to take the class but he said he'd heard from his cousin that they spend half the class learning which way to turn a screw driver and he was afraid it would be boring. I have heard from the scout leaders that it is hard to accomplish anything in scouts because they are having to start from scratch. 4-H, perhaps because they attract the more competent sort of family in the first place, seems not to have this problem.

 

It is sad. My oldest has a beautiful set of sewing sheers and a shelf of cookbooks given to him by the home ec teacher when she dismantled her classroom because she knew that he would use them.

 

This is so different from when I was in school. I was in the highest sections of academic classes. When I went to the guidance councelor to choose my next-year's classes, she always scheduled my academics and then said I would need a study hall or two every day to get my homework done and that we needed to find me some non-academic classes to fill in the rest of my time. LOL - She put most of the high math class into pottery. Those of us headed for engineering were encouraged to take shop and drafting and computer classes. It was possible to graduate from our high school fully qualified to be a secretary. My husband and I think our local high school, excellent as it is academically, is drastically underserving the academic bottom quarter of its students, the ones who would have finished our own high school qualified to get a job as a carpenter, housewife (with accounting and home ec and child care), secretary, or small business owner. We wonder if this is part of the reason some of our oldest's friends drifted aimlessly for a few years after high school.

 

There seems to be a disconnect somewhere. How is it that "back then" students had time for shop and home ec AND were somehow more competent at the academics whereas now, students have no time for shop and home ec and are LESS competent academically?

 

Nan

Edited by Nan in Mass
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YES!!!!!!! They know about many of them, but the stigma is they are LOSERS if they go...

 

This seems to be something that is improving in our area. When my oldest was entering high school, we toured our regional tech school. It was dreadful. The academics were such that there is no way he could have continued on to engineering school (highest math offered was algebra) and the technical projects were very simple. This gave us a fairly good idea of the caliber of students there. Now it seems to be different. Several schools are combining and working with the community college to provide a combined high school diploma/associates degree. Cousins in a different part of the state are in a technical high school that also has acceptable academics.

 

Nan

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...Nan mentioned depression. Yes! But what has caused the funk? Were the kids depressed before arriving at the college or did they become depressed because they felt they did not fit into the program?...

 

In most cases we know, the students were depressed before arriving at the college. Not all, but most. The ones who had some sort of ack-I-changed-my-mind experience once in college managed to straighten it out while still staying in college. They transfered or switched majors or tread water until they figured things out. This was expensive (oops - on the 5 year plan now) but not something that made them drop out or take a leave of absence.

 

Nan

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This is so different from when I was in school. I was in the highest sections of academic classes. When I went to the guidance councelor to choose my next-year's classes, she always scheduled my academics and then said I would need a study hall or two every day to get my homework done and that we needed to find me some non-academic classes to fill in the rest of my time. LOL - She put most of the high math class into pottery. Those of us headed for engineering were encouraged to take shop and drafting and computer classes.

 

There seems to be a disconnect somewhere. How is it that "back then" students had time for shop and home ec AND were somehow more competent at the academics whereas now, students have no time for shop and home ec and are LESS competent academically?

 

Nan

 

 

I know, I know, I know. Can you hear the banging of my head against the wall?

 

My dad took algebra 1, geometry, algebra 2, and pre-calc/trig...actually, I think his school called it analytical geometry.

 

He took three years of Latin.

Two years of Practical Drafting

Four years of Metalworking

Four years of college prep English

Four years of History/Social Studies

Two years of mechanical studies which eventually included machining custom parts for old engines

Physical Science, Chemistry, Physics, and Agricultural Science/Horticulture

 

I think it came to 28 credits and he played football and ran track...held a state track record in 100 meter sprint for over 20 years! :D In the summers he milked twice a day for a local farmer for pay, and painted two or three houses for pay.

 

When he left high school, he took the Air Force exam to get into their engineering program WITHOUT ANY COLLEGE CLASSES and just about aced it. He ended up in the missle engineering and maintenance program and would have retired out of the A.F. if he hadn't been badly injured 8 years in, improperly stored aviation fuel exploded on base and he was close to the building - badly burned - and was given a medical discharge after he recovered.

 

My mom took four years of Home Economics which included by the senior year, catering, fashion design including custom pattern making, architecture/construction (one of the senior projects was to design a home within a specific building budget, draw the blueprints, interview local contractors, price out the supplies and get estimates, and then plan the interior design around specific needs or themes).

 

She was also in 4-H and since her family was very poor and textiles/fiber arts was her emphasis, she as early as 14 years of age, took in sewing/alterations from women in the community in order to earn the money to pay for her fabrics and supplies. Her 4-H leader helped her learn how to run an alterations business along with the assistance of her high school teachers.

 

 

Mom took exclusively business math and accounting courses after algebra 1, agricultural science/horticulture, advanced botany, biology, health and medical sciences, and child development along with four years of English and History as well as a social work class and early-childhood ed. At that time in 4-H, they had regional, state, and national sewing/fashion design contests many of which my mom won as well as the sewing contests through her school and regional high school competitions. Mom designed and produced my wedding gown, my sister's, and now DD's -all based on her high school education. She never took a single college class though I am willing to concede that the education at her high school was so good, possibly she and dad accomplished what would be considered today to be college level material.

 

Today, the local high schoolers graduate with only 20 credits and no actual skills. The statistics are pretty startling.

 

A local educator, graduate of MSU, is trying to convince the state to fund a 4-H charter school in our county with MSU as the overseeing uni. The plan, if it can be brought to fruition, is an emphasis in science and agricultural science - it will include botanical research labs, greenhouses, and fields, animal breeding programs, veterinary technician classes, fiber arts, industrial sciences, etc. Foreign languages offered will be Spanish, Mandarin, and Hindi though they'll also offer four years of American Sign Language. E.M.T. certification will be an option for seniors. There will be a vo-tech track and a college prep track, but the students will be allowed to cross train.

 

I think that if they can get the idea past the State Board of Education, we'll have students lining up in droves! The school will cover 7th -12th grades.

 

Faith

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Thanks for the lively discussion everyone!

 

Faith, I love the idea of the 4-H charter school. But if the students have to take the MEAP, will there really be room for innovation?

 

Mommyfaithe, I was thinking about your comments on the lack of basic skills and work ethic while on my ten mile bike ride this morning. One of the great lessons that comes from developing certain trade skill sets is that something either works or it doesn't. There really is no room for trying. For example, my son used to teach 4-Hers how to assemble an electric project. This was great for young teens who not only learned how to read electrical diagrams but also walked away with the useful skill of soldering. The thing about these kinds of projects is that they required the ability to follow instructions. At the end, the project works or it has to be disassembled and redone.

 

A few years ago I attended a 4-H volunteer development program which encouraged us to foster creativity in our charges. I am all for it but the program enphasized the need to let the kids explore and do things their way. Now I teach sewing. Sorry, I told the agent leading the program, playing with sewing machines is neither safe nor a productive use of my time if I have to repair machines (which happens when the kids start fiddling with alll of the tension adjustments, etc.) Further, there are certain skill sets that we want to teach with sewing. Students progress from sewing straight lines to curves; teaching seam finishes produces a better end product. There is essentially a protocol. But it is precisely this protocol which turns some of my charges off. Producing a quality end product takes time. Some kids lack the patience to work through the process.

 

My husband is a computer systems engineer so he is often approached by parents who say that their kids are looking for careeers in computers and video games in particular. I don't have much to say on the latter but, with regard to the former, it seems that some kids are branded computer whizkids because they can install software. A lot of real computer whizzes are self taught. Here is a case where I think parents can help cultivate knowledge by letting kids tear up and reconstuct virus filled computers, create web sites for organizations, study some programming.

 

But I do sense some hope! There is a rising generation of DIYers out there. Maybe it is the economy but think of all the clever repurposing websites. Think of the rising generation of young farmers.

 

Once again I will advocate for the positive things that we can do as homeschoolers to cultivate passions and useful skills!

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That was a fascinating description. And very depressing. Ug. I spoke to a teacher/parent/homeschooler the other day who said that she has seen a large decline in the readiness of students for college even over the last ten years. When I asked her why she thought this was so, she said she thinks it has to do with the quality of teachers available now compared to that ten years ago. Perhaps the unprepared students people were complaining about years ago have now been teaching long enough for their students to reach high school and this is the result? As I said, it is depressing.

 

Nan

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You know, I'll even go one farther with the shop and home ec classes. I think that it can be just as important for the college bound students to have hands on experience with these facets of life. Spending time chopping vegetables or using a sewing machine or a drill press or a welder gives a student insight into the fact that patience and discipline aren't found only in the world of academics.

 

There can be a lot of character building in working a cookie dough, only to let it burn in the oven because you were distracted. Or in having to start a project over because you put too much force on a piece of wood and split it. Or in realizing that you plan for welding two pieces of metal together is problematic because one melts before the other heats.

 

Not to mention the practical skills that many people aren't now possessing as adults. We've collected three different lawnmowers left out for the trash that only needed something like a fuel line flushed or an air filter cleaned or new spark plugs. For want of this knowledge the previous owner either bought a whole new mower or engaged a lawn service.

My MIL runs a dance studio. The soft shoes for beginning ballet used to come with an elastic strap. The parent was expected to sew the strap down to properly fit the child's foot. She has had many years where the parents don't know how to do this simple hand sewing.

In scouts, I frequently see scouts with patches hanging off because the iron on or press on adhesive has worn off. It takes me about the length of a good movie to sew all of the patches on a scout shirt. But this is becoming an uncommon skill.

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Faith, your image of the "conveyor belt of high school" is well stated. This thread gave me something to think about on my afternoon walk.

 

Going back to my own high school days, I remember how some kids did not give a lot of thought to their futures. If they were from a GM family, they knew that a good paying job on the line awaited. Some kids came from families with a tradition of military service; it was assumed that they would join the Navy or whatever. So maybe it is no different that now that kids are expected to go to college and often follow in the family footsteps.

 

Nan mentioned depression. Yes! But what has caused the funk? Were the kids depressed before arriving at the college or did they become depressed because they felt they did not fit into the program?

Bluegoat has also mentioned something important. There are a number of tech programs available but many kids know nothing about them. Is that because of the emphasis on the four year degree?

 

And I really don't want to be the one questioning the validity of the four year degree. I loved, loved, loved undergraduate. My husband and I have had careers that benefitted from our graduate studies. Education is important to me.

 

To parents of high schoolers I would say use this time not only to read great books, learn how to write and develop math skills, but also use this time to test the waters. This might be the opportunity your kid has wanted to spend a month hiking on the Appalachian Trail or learning millinery or how to build a sound system. I hope everyone encourages their teens to jump off the conveyor belt!

 

Let's not discount the stress of a very high paced life. Not only are many students involved in a lot of activities, but it feels like each of the activities want to be of the highest calibre. So to be competitive in music or sport, you're looking at daily or even twice daily practice.

 

Students are far less likely to spend unstructured time outdoors. Louv uses the term nature deficit disorder. He cites research that suggest that time outdoors exploring and playing improve concentration and attention. (Just as a tidbit, the lack of outdoor time and use of sunscreen have contributed to a return of ricketts in children.)

 

Children are more likely to have unstable home situations. Blended families are not new. I have incredibly tangled family groups in my family tree. But what is new is the increase in families with no father or no parents (with aunties or grandmothers raising the kids) and in families where a kid splits his time between two different households. I have trouble getting my kids to remember where they put stuff in one bedroom. I struggle to think through how much harder it would be if living in two or three different homes through the year. (Even though divorce isn't new - I had elementary aged classmates whose parents divorced in the 1970s; what I think is happening is that two bio parents is becoming more and more unusual. I think it is the situation for well below half of elementary school students, with far worse numbers in some areas. There was a community stability - a herd immunity if you will - that is fading or has already disappeared.

 

I think that there are so many factors that feed into less resiliency. This is something that concerns me a lot when thinking about the future of education. In part because the powers that be seem to focus on new curriculum or improved testing or more scripted classrooms or IEPs, when what is failing the kids is the structure and fabric of community and family.

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Just as a tidbit, the lack of outdoor time and use of sunscreen have contributed to a return of ricketts in children

 

Wow. Just wow.

 

I think that there are so many factors that feed into less resiliency. This is something that concerns me a lot when thinking about the future of education. In part because the powers that be seem to focus on new curriculum or improved testing or more scripted classrooms or IEPs, when what is failing the kids is the structure and fabric of community and family.

 

Well said.

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Let's not discount the stress of a very high paced life. Not only are many students involved in a lot of activities, but it feels like each of the activities want to be of the highest calibre. So to be competitive in music or sport, you're looking at daily or even twice daily practice.

 

Students are far less likely to spend unstructured time outdoors. Louv uses the term nature deficit disorder. He cites research that suggest that time outdoors exploring and playing improve concentration and attention. (Just as a tidbit, the lack of outdoor time and use of sunscreen have contributed to a return of ricketts in children.)

 

 

This ties in with a conversation I was having with friends earlier this summer. For an older generation, tennis was a regular activity of the summer. It was not organized--almost everyone had a racket and either played or just volleyed balls about. The kids who play tennis now tend to take summer lessons with the pro at the golf club.

 

We saw this as a symptom of sports being taken so seriously by parents. Few kids earn college athletic scholarships yet parents of really young kids seem driven to enroll kids in extra lessons and travel teams in the hope that their kid will play a sport in college. What I see as a shame is that some kids are so focused on single sports that they may not try a sport that could just be fun. Recreational sports are not even an option in some communities--only competitive.

 

And as a side note (and at the risk of offending, I suppose), have you noticed that recreational activities and sports must also occur with the appropriate wardrobe? We're not just talking cleats for safety. I see recreational bikers in spandex as though one has to look like a pro to enjoy a bike ride!

 

So is lack of parent modeling at fault? My parents did not ride bikes but they always made sure I had a bicycle and hence freedom of movement as a kid.

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This ties in with a conversation I was having with friends earlier this summer. For an older generation, tennis was a regular activity of the summer. It was not organized--almost everyone had a racket and either played or just volleyed balls about. The kids who play tennis now tend to take summer lessons with the pro at the golf club.

 

We saw this as a symptom of sports being taken so seriously by parents. Few kids earn college athletic scholarships yet parents of really young kids seem driven to enroll kids in extra lessons and travel teams in the hope that their kid will play a sport in college. What I see as a shame is that some kids are so focused on single sports that they may not try a sport that could just be fun. Recreational sports are not even an option in some communities--only competitive.

 

So is lack of parent modeling at fault? My parents did not ride bikes but they always made sure I had a bicycle and hence freedom of movement as a kid.

 

 

That was something that really baffled me, coming from Europe. Back home, kids play ball on the playground, or improvise a soccer game on the lawn. Here, five year olds attend scheduled practice with a coach, with parents watching from the side lines. (We, too, have sports teams and kids play soccer with coaches, but somehow there is more ownership by the kids: they take themselves to practice, and moms don't sit around and watch and interfere with the coaching)

 

I completely agree about the unscheduled nature time being essential. When the kids were younger, a central part of our family life were weekend hikes, where we all went into the woods for the whole day. When they were little, we did not over much ground, stopped to play for hours, climb etc... now that they are teens they have become strong capable hikers who feel comfortable in a variety of terrain. So parental modeling definitely has something to do with it.

I always preferred to do physical activities WITH my kids instead of just watching them be active.

 

 

Another thought about resilience: what strikes me as remarkable is how scripted the lives of young people in this country are. For many many years, they are never without adult supervision. The school day is long, and every step the students take is dictated (back home, students have shorter school days and are unsupervised during breaks and recess; here, our local high school has eliminated all breaks and allows only 3 minutes between classes so that students are constantly under adult supervision). Afternoon activities are structured and moderated as well. I find it mind boggling that parents feel that teenagers need to be watched during the afternoon. So, they never really have any chance to be independent - until they turn 18 and are suddenly shipped off to college, having magically matured over night.

Edited by regentrude
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That was something that really baffled me, coming from Europe. Back home, kids play ball on the playground, or improvise a soccer game on the lawn. Here, five year olds attend scheduled practice with a coach, with parents watching from the side lines. (We, too, have sports teams and kids play soccer with coaches, but somehow there is more ownership by the kids: they take themselves to practice, and moms don't sit around and watch and interfere with the coaching)

 

I completely agree about the unscheduled nature time being essential. When the kids were younger, a central part of our family life were weekend hikes, where we all went into the woods for the whole day. When they were little, we did not over much ground, stopped to play for hours, climb etc... now that they are teens they have become strong capable hikers who feel comfortable in a variety of terrain. So parental modeling definitely has something to do with it.

I always preferred to do physical activities WITH my kids instead of just watching them be active.

 

I think there is simply a different social environment that I saw in Germany and Japan that allows young teens and tweens a great deal of public mobility. It wasn't uncommon to see a group of school children walking to and from the public bus stop or metro station on their way to school or to go downtown for a movie.

 

In my pretty safe neighborhood in the VA suburbs, the parents tend to walk (or drive) their kids to the bus stop, wait with them there and then be there again in the afternoon. It makes me laugh to no end to see the cars idling at the bus stop in the morning, having spared the kids the 2.5 block walk down the dead end street (with sidewalks).

 

On the other hand, before the end of school last year, there were multiple instances of high school kids being attacked as they walked the neighborhood trails to school. And I cannot imagine just putting my kids onto a city bus in the US. Partly because the transit systems are structured differently in Europe and Japan such that there are so many people using them and such a cross section. I also had the sense that someone was watching out for the younger kids who were on their way to school.

 

And I do agree with you about the recreational sports. Other than skateboarders, I don't feel like I see very many kids out just playing around.

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In my pretty safe neighborhood in the VA suburbs, the parents tend to walk (or drive) their kids to the bus stop, wait with them there and then be there again in the afternoon. It makes me laugh to no end to see the cars idling at the bus stop in the morning, having spared the kids the 2.5 block walk down the dead end street (with sidewalks).

 

I live half a mile from the elementary school and walked my kids to schol every morning (we have a four lane high way to cross, and the drivers routinely run the red light, or do not stop for pedestrians when they make right turns, extremely dangerous). But: of all the families on our street, we are the only ones who walk at all. Everybody else drives. What does that teach the kids? That walking half a mile is a hardship you need a car for.

 

On the other hand, before the end of school last year, there were multiple instances of high school kids being attacked as they walked the neighborhood trails to school.

that is horrible.

 

And I cannot imagine just putting my kids onto a city bus in the US. Partly because the transit systems are structured differently in Europe and Japan such that there are so many people using them and such a cross section. I also had the sense that someone was watching out for the younger kids who were on their way to school.

.

 

It is a vicious cycle: if your kid is the only one out alone, of course that is too risky. If, OTOH, streets are populated by people who are walking, children and young adults are out walking to school or taking the bus and this is the norm, it is much safer.

 

 

But I was not just talking about way to school. I have encoutered the sentiment, both my ps and homeschool parents, that teens can not be home unsupervised. :confused:

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My parents did not ride bikes but they always made sure I had a bicycle and hence freedom of movement as a kid.

 

When I was a kid, I rode my bike everywhere -- to friend's houses, to sailing lessons, to the tennis courts, etc. Every other kid in my town did too.

 

So my kids and I rode our bicycles together to the library, etc., in preparation for the day of independence when they could start riding places by themselves. The day came for each kid, and they started bicycling themselves places.

 

Imagine my horror/amusement/surprise when my kids' independence is greeted by other people's cries of "It isn't safe!" and "They'll get into an accident!" and "All alone? Really?" We live in a safe town and I am still baffled by the lack of support for my kids' independence.

 

I guess it's a sign of the times, but it truly puzzles me -- kids can no longer run in the woods or bicycle to the library or play with the other neighborhood kids (because they aren't there) but the kids are expected to pursue/stress over sports ad hobbies at a serious level that involves a huge degree of both parental money and parental time. Weird!

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You know, I'll even go one farther with the shop and home ec classes. I think that it can be just as important for the college bound students to have hands on experience with these facets of life. Spending time chopping vegetables or using a sewing machine or a drill press or a welder gives a student insight into the fact that patience and discipline aren't found only in the world of academics.

 

There can be a lot of character building in working a cookie dough, only to let it burn in the oven because you were distracted. Or in having to start a project over because you put too much force on a piece of wood and split it. Or in realizing that you plan for welding two pieces of metal together is problematic because one melts before the other heats.

 

 

I also think it's important that children/teens understand how physically hard some of these jobs can be. My dh enjoys being a carpenter, but it has taken it's toll after 30 years. Ds was worked with him, and is this weekend actually. Ds was exhausted last night. From a negative motivation standpoint, it was very effective to remind him that he might have to work that physically hard all his life if he doesn't take his education seriously.

 

There are many smart educated people that choose a job that is physically demanding. Yet, we've found many un/undereducated people don't have a choice. They think swinging a hammer for the rest of the lives will be okay. It's one thing when you're 20 and one good nights rest fixes the aches. It entirely different at 50. Dh was cut out for blue-collar work, ds is not.

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