Sometimes I’m thrown for a loop by questions I’m asked by my students at Curry College, where I ride herd over the Communication Department’s Public Relations Concentration. You’d think, after ten years of doing this, I would have heard it all, but noooo…
Before I wander too far down this path, let me be clear…my PR troops are awesome! They are pushing themselves beyond what they thought was their limit and are going off after graduation to do amazing things!
But, for some, getting there has been…and continues to be…a bit of a challenge. Why?
My simplistic answer…they’ve never been challenged before. They’ve never been pushed to use their own thought and imagination to solve problems. The answers were always there for them if they so much as blinked an eye.
The upside to this spoonfeeding is that they have floated through their pre-adult years confident that answers could always be found.
The downside is that they have never been challenged to use their own resources to solve the problems…to actually find those answers.
In other words…they have arrived on my doorstep totally unprepared for “life.”
How do I usually identify this problem?
Easy…it’s when I give an assignment that can only be answered by looking outside the course reading materials…by assessing what’s going on in the “real world” and finding the solution.
The responses range from “what chapter of the book covers this?” to a flat out “it’s not in the book; I don’t understand.”
It’s at this point where I slide into my (more-or-less) “kindly father” role and say, “Welcome to the real world. The answers are not going to be handed to you on a silver platter. You are going to have to find them.”
Cue the moaning and groaning.
Prominent in our mission statement at Curry is that of teaching “critical thinking”…of assessing a situation and identifying its possible cause or its solution. Concepts like devoting serious thought, conducting research, and weighing pros and cons are part and parcel of this.
But, from what I see on occasion, the troops are not prepared for this. They’ve grown up being spoonfed the answers and, until they wander into one of my classes, they haven’t been challenged to do otherwise.
And here’s where my “welcome to the real world” instruction kicks in. I don’t ask “yes or no” questions; I don’t provide a “guide” to help prepare for a quiz covering two chapters in a book.
Instead, I ask “why?” and “what if?” questions, and the answers have to be found through research, serious weighing of possible solutions, and out of the box thinking…again, real world scenarios.
My hope/dream/fondest wish is that this approach will prepare my charges for that inevitable day when their boss marches into their workspace and dumps a pile of papers onto their desk with these angst-producing words, “I need to have an answer for our client this afternoon.”
That’s when they will realize that they’re “all growed up,” and they are expected to get out of their comfortable “someone else will solve this for me” box if they want to get ahead in life.