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Simple answer, they don't need to. Why bother reading when they can be entertained by videos and audio books. If they really want to learn something- they can just "ask alexa" or "ask siri". Twitter, instagram, tic-tok and other such platforms where they communicate with their friends just need a lot of graphics, audio tracks, videos and very less reading. They've got everything they need right now without ever needing to read.

The technology we built to make life easier for adults, also makes learning easy for kids. Maybe even a little too easy. Is reading still relevant at all? Yes, it is, if they need to become the kind of adults who will advance the technology and science we have to the next level. They need the skills to understand, assimilate and build knowledge. And besides that, do we really want to raise a generation of kids who never read the terms and conditions, or contracts just because they're too long and difficult to read?

The solution? I think it's to ration out technology. If my internet isn't working for some reason, I read physical books more. Netflix is just so convenient if it's an option. Every time we take a technology break, my 8 year old spends a lot more time reading physical books. And then for those kids who really struggle to read, we've got to help them learn. It's not just to get through school. It is an important life skill.

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Every child develops differently. And every educator knows that. But we also have these standards, expectations that each child is expected to achieve in a specific sequence and at every grade. The pressure starts at pre-school where parents are obsessed with making sure their kid knows every alphabet and can count to a 100. It doesn't stop and keeps going on as the years go.

But kids don't always do what our developmental charts say. So often I see a kid who's 3 years ahead in verbal expression but struggling to write their d's or p's the right way. Kids who can do division but can't write 8 properly. What do we do? We frustrate them everyday by forcing them to write D and P the right way. Get them to write pages and pages of the number 8.

Here's what I think. We're wasting our time. Yes the standards are there to guide us, but we have to ride this unique wave of development that every child has. Now don't get me wrong- I'm not suggesting that we throw out the idea of standards-based learning... without a goal to reach every teacher will teach what they feel like and kids will never progress over the school years. What I'm saying is we've taken the standards and made them so rigid that it's starting to hurt our kids.

If a 7 year old child is great at making up songs, or poetry, or telling stories- let them grow. Let them make up stories and record them as audio files. Let them sing songs and record them. Work on the P's and the D's too.. but just be willing to give that time. If a 6 year old child can do division well and wants to do sums but can't write the answers, give them a bunch of number stickers to use. Train their brain in math, and it's OK if their hands take a little extra time to get the writing perfect.

Now how does it work with our school system where a student can't be "passed" to the next grade without reaching those standards? I don't know. But this is a conversation we have to start. Maybe the schools can be more accommodating to advanced, as well as, developing skills. Maybe us parents don't have to push our kids for an A grade every single time. We have to give our kids the space to grow and develop their various skills in a pace that's unique to them.

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It's a fair question in today's world. There was a recent situation where PETA wrote a letter to Amul, one of the biggest milk providers in India, and suggested that they switch to vegan options. But Amul wrote back and said it would affect the livelihoods of so many if they did so. We have to keep the world safe, but can it be at the cost of human livelihoods? A similar issue comes to mind when you talk about fishing, and conservation of the oceans. What about the livelihoods of the thousands of fishermen who depend on that work?

In most situations, yes, our lifestyle changes can make a difference, but not as much as a change in policies that support social justice, efficient governance, use of science to come up with creative solutions, and of course responsible consumption. There is a balance between the extremes of becoming vegan and exploiting the earth. There will always be the few that can make the sacrifices that come with becoming vegan, but for change to happen, we need most of us to make a change. Talking about (and practicing) sustainable consumption, pushing for fair practices in industries, choosing to buy from ethical brands, looking for scientific and innovative solutions and putting money behind them.. maybe these are the things that we must all do, and maybe if we all do them, we will make our world healthier for everyone.

And above all, let's not forget the poor fisherman, or the farmer in India, who has a few cows that help him earn a tiny bit of money. Let's figure out a way that works for the most vulnerable and the most marginalized people in our world.

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