Monday, July 01, 2013

We honor athletes. Why don't we honor nerds?

Last Saturday I was a guest speaker at a meeting hosted by the India Development Coalition of America. One of the other speakers was Dr. Ratnam Chitturi, Founder of the North South Foundation, in Burr Ridge, Ill. I was not aware of this organization although I've networked with members of IDCA for almost a decade.

Dr. Ratman started his presentation with this video, which I think is great!

Then he talked about why Indian kids do so well in completions that test knowledge and intelligence. He said "We have a minor league network that starts preparing kids as early as 1st grade!"

I browsed around the North South Foundation web site this morning and found another article titled, "Why Are Indian Kids So Good at Spelling?" which was in the Washington Post in 2010.

This is not limited to spelling. Visit this page on the North South Foundation web site and learn about
a) The Vocabulary contest
b) The Math Bee
c) The Geography Bee
d) The Science Bee
e) The Essay Writing Contest
f) The Public Speaking competition
g) The Brain Bee

This program seems to include Indian youth, but the concept could be duplicated in the Black, Hispanic, American Indian, and White communities. It seems that volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs might adopt this concept, reaching youth early and engaging them in competitions as they grow older.

If we make learning cool, or "honor nerds" maybe more kids will become more motivated and inspired to learn on their own. As Dr. Chitturi said "Once motivated and inspired, the sky is the limit."

If found other competitions that motivate youth to excel, such as

a) First Robotics science and technology competitions
b) SAGE Tournaments, focused on stimulating student entrepreneurship
c) Digital Media and Learning Competitions supported by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

That's been the goal of tutor/mentor programs I've been part of. If we can help such programs be available to youth in more places where learning is not valued as much as computer games or sports or music videos, we can build systems of support that mirror what North South Foundation has built over the past 24 years.

Volunteers and donors who already are part of youth tutoring/mentoring programs could stimulate the growth of these ideas in more places as we enter the 2013-14 school year. Just share this information and form a group to innovate ways to bring the ideas into programs you're involved with.

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