Why We're Optimists about Education

If there's one recent trend in education that can make you optimistic, it's this: the ever-growing amount of research showing that traits we thought of as innate are actually learnable. Slowly but surely, the category of "you either have it or you don't" is shrinking, as we learn that traits like happiness, resilience, emotional intelligence and others can all be learned in the right conditions. 

This is not just our aspiration: increasingly there is hard science driving this change in perspective. Pioneering researcher Martin Seligman helped to establish the field of positive psychology, demonstrating that happiness in many ways is a set of skills and attitudes, all learnable. Stanford professor Carol Dweck, as we've written about earlier, has shown the central importance of mindset in determining how hard we'll work toward goals, among other areas. Daniel Goleman fleshed out a scientific understanding of emotional intelligence, which governs much of our success in life, professionally and personally, and is a teachable skill. The list goes on and on. While these capacities are not easy to build, we know they are learnable and increasingly know the tools and methods that develop them. 

We are all much more adaptable than older neuroscience told us; the brain is continually evolving, growing new neurons and strengthening or weakening patterns of thought and behavior. For educators, the message is clear: we have even greater opportunity, and responsibility, to develop in students the full range of their human potential. This is why at Millennium, we have the concept of a double curriculum: one half is an advanced academic curriculum, covering areas more familiar to traditional school design, though with a 21st century update; the other half is developmental, helping students hone the many types of intelligence they possess, from intellectual to social to creative, which together will shape their future lives.

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