Rigor Mortis: Let’s Redefine Rigor to Meet Student Needs | Alden Blodget | 6 Min Read

May 16, 2023

In a country where self-serve businesses seem a fitting symbol for a pervasive approach to life, I’m not surprised that I get a lot of criticism for promoting schools that make room for the self of the student: “Kids today already seem over-indulged, narcissistic, and entitled,” say my critics. “They need to learn about the ideas of others, get outside themselves, learn about different cultures.” Others, despite the research, scoff at the notion of allowing students to study what matters to them, what is emotionally relevant. They laugh at the idea that high school students are intellectually curious or can possibly make good choices. One colleague asked me with great contempt whether I would simply “let them choose which elements of the periodic table appeal to them and study only those.”

It might surprise my critics to learn that I share their unhappiness with the epidemic of self-absorption that affects not just our children but a huge number of adults. We all need to take more seriously our responsibility to develop social capacities in our youth: empathy, compassion, respect, and admiration, as well as, when appropriate, guilt and remorse. I also believe that children need…

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Alden Blodget

Veteran teacher and administrator Alden S. "Denny" Blodget is the author of "Learning, Schooling and the Brain: New Research vs. Old Assumptions." He also helped create the Annenberg Foundation's Neuroscience & the Classroom. He is the editor for TeensParentsTeachers.org, a free online resource focusing on issues affecting young people and the adults who work with them.