New View EDU Episode 8: Schools as Practice Zones for Adulting

Available September 28

Find New View EDU on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher, and many other podcast apps.

How do we support our young people in becoming independent, thriving, adaptable, confident learners? How do we encourage them to develop a sense of their own agency and shape their lives, rather than having their lives dictated to them? And what is the role of schools in creating capable, responsible adults—not just high-stat students who achieve academically but struggle to “adult” beyond the classroom?

Julie Lythcott-HaimsThe impact of the college admissions race on students and schools is becoming increasingly clear. While students pursue an ever-growing number of advanced courses, impressive extracurricular achievements, and other “resume-builders” to boost their chances of getting into top colleges, educators and parents are taking stock of the other skills that seem to have fallen by the wayside. Is the pursuit of academic excellence at all costs leading to a generation of students who don’t know how to handle the basic tasks of adulthood? Julie Lythcott-Haims, New York Times bestselling author of Your Turn, Real American, and How to Raise an Adult, joins New View EDU to shed light on how our current concepts in education may be inadvertently restricting students’ growth.

In this episode, hosts Tim Fish and Lisa Kay Solomon talk with Julie about her personal concept of “rooting for humans” and her investment in helping all people thrive. A former dean at Stanford University, Julie shares how her own observations about the emerging harm of helicopter parenting led her to begin exploring how young people suffer when they’re deprived of opportunities to develop agency, self-determination, and problem-solving skills. She urges school leaders to consider how responsibility and care for the community can be infused into the school experience from the youngest ages, rather than left as “community service hours” checkboxes for older students to complete. And in the wake of the pandemic, Julie encourages all adults to reconsider their definitions of both service and success—understanding that no child can be considered to have “failed” when confronted with a global crisis, and that for many students, stepping up to help at home to fulfill a need may have been the highest form of service possible.

More deeply, Julie examines the ways in which true inclusion and care for every student make a stark difference in the educational landscape. Who “matters” in each school and classroom? How can educators examine the evidence presented to them that shows which students feel seen and which don’t? What can educators do to commit to creating school cultures where each and every student feels they matter deeply to someone? And how can school leaders ensure that everyone within their communities understands, commits to, and lives the values upon which the school is founded, using those values to invest deeply in relationships that uplift every person?

Key Questions

Some of the key questions Tim and Lisa explore in this interview include:
  • What opportunity currently exists for school leaders to let go of practices that don’t serve their values, and embrace changes that do?
  • How do we design schools to deliberately embrace relationship-building and connection as core concepts, not secondary to test prep and rigor?
  • In what ways might we be able to redefine concepts like social-emotional learning (SEL) and service learning to become more joyful, integrated, and internalized, and less performative?
  • How can schools create cultures that support “fending” skills from the youngest ages, and why is it important to do so?

Episode Highlights

  • “You don't just sort of give someone the opportunity to fend at their 18th birthday. It doesn't happen that way. Fending is intrinsically about skills. You don't, we don't go from handling everything for kids to them suddenly being capable of doing for themselves. That's called being cut off cold turkey, and it's cruel, and it leads to, you know, can lead to real devastating results. So we are definitely in for a reframe.” (8:16)
  • “At a very practical level, Home Ec and shop class—Home Ec and shop class were terrific places to learn some of the fending skills. And in many communities, those courses have gone the way of the dinosaur because we've gotten so enamored of what we think of as enrichment, which we think is only the hardcore academic stuff. So we've jettisoned the stuff of life out the window, and we shouldn't be surprised that we graduate people with high GPAs who cannot do much for themselves.” (10:17)
  • “I try to hone in on the root, the Latin root educare, you know, educate, educare. Educare, I'm told—I was never a student of Latin, but I have learned—means to bring forth. And I tell educators, what's your subject? And they'll say French, Latin, Spanish, math, English, history, art, music, et cetera. And I'll challenge that. I'll say, isn't your student the subject? Aren't you bringing your student forth, and simply your expertise—math—is, is what you use to bring them forth?” (14:15)
  • “Our educators are hurting. They're, they're stretched so thin. They've been burning the candle at both ends and in the middle. And we all need to restore the self, if we have any hope of being of use to other humans. And when we can walk that walk, then I think we are reshaping education and reshaping the experience our children have within it.” (20:15)
  • “You know, for some kids, they're just proud they're alive, and we need to celebrate that because people were pushed to the brink. So celebrating, recognizing the stronger capacities and emotional strength that was built because of this struggle. That would be an important thing, I think, to embed at least into this coming fall, if not to make it a part of a much bigger practice.” (27:31)

Resource List

  • Your Turn: Julie’s bestselling book about “how to be an adult.”
  • The Your Turn Study Guide: A helpful resource for using Julie’s book to start “fending” and finding your voice. 
  • Julie’s inspiring talks: Watch Julie speak on topics relevant to parents, educators, and young people who are trying to grow into competent adults.
  • Hunt, Gather, Parent: The new book by Michaeleen Doucleff that Julie mentions in this interview.
  • The Daily SEL Leader: Julie’s recommended book for educators looking to improve their SEL practices.
  • Hella Social Impact: Putting social impact and racial justice at the heart of organizations.
  • Vaya Consulting: Organizational culture with an emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Full Transcript

About Our Guest

Julie Lythcott-Haims believes in humans and is deeply interested in what gets in our way. She is The New York Times bestselling author of the anti-helicopter parenting manifesto How to Raise an Adult, which gave rise to a TED Talk that has more than 5 million views. Her second book is the critically acclaimed and award-winning prose poetry memoir Real American, which illustrates her experience as a Black and biracial person in white spaces. A third book, Your Turn: How to Be an Adult, is out now.

Julie is a former corporate lawyer and Stanford dean, and she holds a BA from Stanford, a JD from Harvard, and an MFA in writing from California College of the Arts. She serves on the board of Common Sense Media and on the advisory board of LeanIn.Org. She volunteers with the hospital program No One Dies Alone.

She lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her partner of over 30 years, their itinerant young adults, and her mother.