The Power of Why

July 12th, 2010 by elliedylan

The current generation of young people, often referred to as “Generation Z” are those born between 1995 – 2009. These kids have had lifelong use of instant communication technologies through the internet (email, texting, instant messaging), new media (YouTube, etc.) and social networking (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace).

Said to be the most ‘connected generation ever to walk this planet’, they are multi-taskers, many of whom spend 11 hours a day involved with new media on their own time. However, many of these young people feel bored and mentally checked out at school.

They are more sophisticated than many adults acknowledge and are misunderstood regarding what’s really needed to engage them.

There is much discussion about the crisis in American education and its symptoms: declining test scores, increased absenteeism, violence, etc. The current “solutions” for transforming education are greatly focused on “accountability” for teachers and schools, as measured by student performance on standardized tests. This approach has made incremental, if any, progress in transforming the problems of the dysfunctional American educational system.

Perhaps the most fundamental component to creating significant educational reform is to uncover what is causing this disconnect in the education of our young people.

Research has shown that there is a Missing Link in education. It’s not English. It’s not Math. It’s not Science. The Missing Link is inner motivation and purpose.

But the most pertinent question is HOW to engender inner motivation and purpose in our young people.

The answer lies in the ‘Power of Why’. In school – and in life – many “Generation Z” children are missing the “WHY” in their academic experience.

When young people understand WHY they are doing something, it gives meaning to it so they want to do it….they are internally motivated to do it. When the “Power of Why” is missing, there is no meaning, no direction, no connection…and, hence, no desire to do it.

When you think about it, one of the most frequently asked questions by very young children is simply: ”WHY?”. Young children want (and feel a primal need) to know WHY things occur or should be done.

Inevitably, when they ask “WHY?”, they are admonished, “Be quiet and just do what you’re told”. So after a while, children stop asking “why?”. They become disengaged from anything that does not allow them to feel they can somehow make it their own. The number one culprit for doing this to our children is “school”.

Transforming the educational crisis of today and achieving significant educational reform cannot be accomplished without bringing the ‘Power of Why’ into the classroom. This can only be effectively implemented if it is “packaged” (i.e. presented) in a way that speaks the language of and engages this generation of children – so that it meets them on their “home turf”, grounded in new media and customized to show them how their education really connects to WHAT MATTERS TO THEM.

Children want to find out HOW to realize their goals and dreams. WE know that education is an essential component to making this happen.

But many children do NOT know this. And the education crisis will continue until the ‘Power of Why’ and the linkage between the students’ own dreams for their lives and their education become a foundational component of daily life at school.

SKY U is doing this paradigm-shifting work in education with its premier program, The Quest For Excellence.

Here’s how The SKY U Quest transforms the educational experience for children, teachers, and schools by integrating the “Power of Why” into the classroom:


1. Give them the ‘Power of Why’.

  • Show children the BIGGER picture of WHY their education is important to them.

2. Allow them to ‘customize’ their experience of education to their own goals and dreams.

  • Have the children think about and write down several of their own goals and dreams for what they want to BE in life.
  • Show children the connection (i.e. the ‘link’) between reaching their own goals and dreams and their education.
  • Ensure that children understand that education is necessary for them to reach their goals and dreams.
  • e.g. If they want to be an astronaut, then learning Science, Math, and Reading is essential.

3. Speak their language.

  • Media and an “entertaining experience” is this generation of children’s “language”.
  • Use it instead of ‘boring’ old-paradigm text-intense forms.
  • Use graphics (and technology where possible) – even as simply as letting the children provide their own by drawing and / or creating it on the computer.

4. Keep it positive and promote the possibilities and potential in your classroom.

  • Create a climate in your classroom that acknowledges the positive and models it.
  • A positive mindset and commitment to the belief that children can do and be anything they put their minds to is indispensable.
  • Cheering them on with the support of their peers is vital.

5. Make learning an adventure.

  • Have the children see school (and their lives) as a Quest in which THEY are the author. Let them know that:
  • They set the plot and the outcomes of their Quests. (This gives them ownership and makes them accountable for their performance and results at school.)

6. See and empower the children as your ‘partners’ in reaching their goals and in using school as the way to get there.

  • Let them know by demonstrating consistently that you are there to support them in reaching their goals and dreams.

7. Give children the success skills they need to succeed in a child-centered format they understand and embrace:

  • Organization
  • Goal-setting
  • Accountability

Equipped with the “Power of Why” in their education, along with HOW they can use it to realize their own goals and dreams, children will excel not only in school, but in all aspects of life.

The “Power of Why”. Support it. Embrace it. And pass it on to the children in your life. WHY? Because it works!

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