Mak­ing the most of Amer­ica’s young peo­ple

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION -

In his June 8 op-ed col­umn, “The plight of the NEETs,” Robert J. Sa­muel­son wrote that many of the NEETs— peo­ple ages 15 to 29 who are nei­ther em­ployed nor in ed­u­ca­tion or train­ing — lack em­ploy­able skills. The NEETs pose a sig­nif­i­cant so­cial prob­lem. There are 39 mil­lion NEETs in 33 industrial na­tions. Their lack of em­ploy­able skills will not be cor­rected un­less they de­velop be­hav­iors needed for suc­cess in life.

Paul Tough wrote sev­eral years ago about re­search on such be­hav­iors. Im­por­tant be­hav­iors for suc­cess in­clude zest, grit, self-con­trol, so­cial in­tel­li­gence, grat­i­tude and cu­rios­ity. With­out th­ese be­hav­iors, even those with grades good enough to get into col­lege are likely to flunk out or quit.

Many uni­ver­si­ties help stu­dents with th­ese be­hav­ioral de­fi­cien­cies. The so­ci­etal chal­lenge is how to best help youth de­velop th­ese be­hav­iors early in life. With all of the em­pha­sis on testing and stan­dards, lit­tle is writ­ten about our schools try­ing to help stu­dents de­velop th­ese be­hav­iors. Some schools stress char­ac­ter devel­op­ment along with aca­demic sub­jects; the best ones in­te­grate char­ac­ter devel­op­ment and aca­demics. The public ought to learn more about what schools are do­ing to foster th­ese be­hav­iors.

Frank A. Ni­co­lai, Fort Wash­ing­ton

Robert J. Sa­muel­son’s June 8 col­umn missed the point. The world doesn’t need more work­ers. The world needs more peo­ple who de­vote their lives to some­thing other than ac­quir­ing wealth, such as cre­at­ing or help­ing oth­ers. That should be the role of the NEETs. Such work is more wor­thy than sup­port­ing your­self and could pro­mote a sense of pur­pose­ful­ness in­stead of de­mor­al­iza­tion. We need NEETs.

Bobby Baum, Bethesda

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