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The At-Risk Student may be a Genius

America became an economic world leader because people at any social level with a vision could promote their ideas and profit from it. In other parts of the world, only upper class society could develop and profit from their ideas. In America, unschooled visionaries have equal opportunity with university-educated people. In fact, unschooled leaders like Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and The Wright Brothers' developed ideas that changed the way we live. These people were technicians whose thinking processes are vary different from intellectuals. Visionaries look at problems and think of alternatives while classroom education focuses on academics that are based on proven results. For this reason, technical visionaries are in conflict in the typical classroom environments.

The above visionaries succeed at an early age because their parents recognized their unique talents and created opportunity so they could develop their natural skill. In the above cases, classroom environments were destroying their creative potential and that destruction was recognized by parents or themselves. Most visionaries are not so lucky.

Classroom education is needed to meet employer's hiring qualifications. Classroom education is NOT needed to become a super achiever. Project base education is a natural builder of super achievers.
A person, who depends on classrooms for education, depends on someone to promote them. A person who can educate themselves will promote themselves.

All youth enter the teen years with visions of doing great things. For at-risk students, these visions are out of step with the formal education system. Society pressures them to give up wild visions and accept the status quo, which includes goals achieved with a college education. As a result, student's natural talent, desires and social pressure are on a collision course. The teenager does not know how to cope and gives up all ambition.

The argument is that teens need to learn basic skills for the adult world. High schools are designed to prepare students for college, not the adult world most will enter. For blue-collar trades, high level of academics is not necessary. Pushing high academic achievement on blue-collar types produces negative results. Many academic subjects can be delayed to a later time in life when there is a need to know. This is the way the system works in the adult world, why not let teenagers join it instead of fight it? If there was less pressure on academics, at-risk students could pursue natural talents that would lead them to a productive lifestyle in the blue-collar world.

When Thomas Edison's schoolmaster labeled him as a boy with a disarranged mind, his mother pulled him out of school and gave him a workshop to develop his creative skills. She was not concerned about academics; she focused on his natural talent. At the age of fifteen, Edison sold his first patent.

What if Edison lived in a high-rise apartment? He would not have the opportunity to develop his creative skills. What if he was forced to stay in school? The negative labels placed on him could kill his creative ambition. Being a frustrated young man, he would turn to drugs. Someone else would have to come up with the wild ridiculous idea that something could burn white hot and not burn up, referring to Edison's invention of the light bulb.

Today, pressure is on all students to stay in school no matter how strong the failure label becomes. Failing students are being told they are failures five times a day, five days a week. This persistent reminder of failure develops low self-esteem that does more harm than a diploma does good. Self-fulfilling prophecy will seal their fate. Dropouts who become achievers will spend ten to fifteen years of persistent effort to overcome their negative self-esteem. Most adults will never overcome negative self-esteem because they accepted the failure label that was placed on them as teenagers. What employer wants people with heads hanging low because of low self-esteem? The typical educator says a high school education is more important than positive self-esteem.

If the classroom is harmful to failing students, what are the options?

The above learning environments are natural byproducts aboard 18th century sailing vessels. Nature is the instructor and motivator. Difficult personalities are humbled and inspired by the awesome forces of nature. Nature establishes a challenge that motivates one to learn more about the world they live in. Tall ships turn lives around by offering a challenging opportunity. Tall ship participants accept this challenge because man has a natural desire to learn and be productive. Failing students need a challenging environment to discover the genius hidden inside themselves.

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