On Honoring FIVE PROMISES

General Colin Powell. I don’t think I’ve grieved a public figure as much as I have him. I was shocked and so saddened by the announcement of his passing yesterday.

Sure, he was a top military leader throughout the decades, but he really won my heart in the 1990s as the first founding chairman of America’s Promise Alliance (by the way, his wife, Alma Powell, fills that role today). At the time, I was involved with some public relations campaigns involving politics, as well as youth advocacy. Powell was making a significant mark in both areas and, in my mind, there’s something extra special about a tough-as-nails, intelligent man who has a soft spot for kids.

America’s Promise Alliance is still going strong and anchors its efforts in “five promises“—what we grown-ups can promise to give to kids today so they have a better chance of becoming successful adults in the future:

  • Caring adults
  • Safe places
  • A healthy start
  • Effective education
  • Opportunities to help others

I am especially intrigued by the organization’s “How Learning Happens” research series, which promotes learning as “a social, emotional, and cognitive process for each and every young person—a process that is affected by their identities, relationships, circumstances, and a host of other academic and non-academic factors.”

Even though I had some great “caring adults” and “safe places” in my life, I think my own education was sorely lacking. And if I could put my finger on why, it’s all about what “How Learning Happens” addresses. In short, opportunities for me to personalize the learning material were rare. I remember vividly the mere handful of times I delved into a subject using my own curiosity and creativity—in turn, I remember clearly what I did and what I learned. But multiple-choice tests and other methods for responding by rote were the default teaching technique of my school. In the end, very little of the advanced material, if any of it, “took.” I know for a fact this is one of the reasons I love teaching and tutoring middle-school students these days: I am learning—truly learning—right along with them.

So I’m determined to embrace the “Alliance” piece of America’s Promise Alliance by, well, becoming an ally. First things first, in memory of General Powell and his positive impact on me and the world, I’m going to make a donation. Then I’m going to join the Alliance and make true on keeping those five important promises in partnership with other parents, educators, world leaders, etc. As you and I continue to connect here, please help keep me accountable. Thanks for reading!

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