skip to main content
The New Bill of Rights for All Students

The New Bill of Rights for All Students

by Brandon Busteed

Gallup has a silver bullet for solving many of the world's problems. Here it is: Every student in the world, from pre-K to higher ed, needs:

  • Someone who cares about their development
  • To do what they like to do each day
  • To do what they are best at every day

That's it. It should be the new bill of rights for all students -- and frankly, all people -- worldwide.

This insight is rooted in Gallup's most important findings -- everyone in the world wants a good job, and no one ever became successful by trying to improve their weaknesses. They became great by playing to their strengths and leveraging their innate talents. These two findings have absolutely everything in common with the new bill of rights.

A "good job" is not just any job. True, it's regular work -- a job. But most importantly, it's about being engaged in your work -- something Gallup is an expert on, having conducted more than 24 million workplace engagement surveys worldwide. And being engaged in your work -- experiencing "flow," as some experts call it, at its finest -- is mostly about three key ingredients: having a manager or someone at work who cares about your development, doing what you like to do each day, and doing what you're best at every day. We know that if you have a manager who focuses on your strengths, for example, the chances of you being disengaged are virtually zero. On the flip side, if you have a manager who ignores you entirely, there is virtually no chance that you are engaged.

Ad man of the century, Roy Spence, has become a nationally-renowned guru on how individuals and organizations can find their "purpose." His message is that the purpose of life is to play to your strengths. And yet, our entire educational system and work environment is built around a deficit-based model. We have created a world where we spend almost all of our time focused on what is wrong, rather than what is right.

Throughout the U.S. educational system, we harp on what is wrong with schools, how ineffective teachers are, and what our kids don't know. We do this across our workplaces as well when managers give employees reviews -- that is, if you're lucky enough to have a manager who actually takes the time to give you one. The focus is on "constructive criticism," the polite way of saying what you're doing wrong and what you're no good at. Imagine what the world would look like if we found a way to maximize human potential by everyone doing what they are best at every day. The impact is unfathomable.

Gallup estimates that -- at most -- 30% of the United State's workforce is actively engaged in their work. We also know the outlook is pretty miserable in schools; in elementary school, engagement peaks at 76%, but then decreases each year students are in school -- down to 61% in middle school and then 44% in high school. If schools focused on students' strengths rather than their weaknesses, students would be more engaged throughout their entire education.

After surveying citizens in 160 countries for the past six years, Gallup knows what a life well lived looks like. Those who rate their lives the highest in the world have one important factor in common, a factor that is the strongest predictor of how they view their lives: career well-being. In short, they like what they do, they do what they're best at, and they most certainly have someone who cares about their development.

We need a new Bill of Rights -- not just for students and not just for the United States -- but for humankind. If you want to "fix" our economy and "fix" the education system that fuels it, we've learned the hard way that it can't be accomplished by hammering away at weaknesses.

We need to find what's strong, not what's wrong. And that starts with each human being playing to their own strengths. That's a journey that starts at birth and goes until death, from pre-K to post-career. Share the new Bill of Rights now:

  1. I have someone who cares about my development.
  2. I do what I like to do each day.
  3. I do what I'm best at every day.

It will change the trajectory of students' lives -- and of human development throughout the world.

Learn how to achieve better student outcomes with Gallup's services for higher education.

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030