There’s no doubt that there’s room for improvement when it comes to education in the United States. A simple Google search will reveal a myriad of sources showing that our nation isn’t at the top when it comes to educating our kids.
It’s fairly easy to be critical of our public schools. Whether it’s things like test scores, standards, curriculum, funding, or a host of other things; there’s much to be said. Yet, at the end of the day, I’m more convinced than ever that we don’t shoulder enough of the blame ourselves for the shortcomings.
I was reminded of this recently when I met with a young man who has — to put it mildly — fallen on some hard times. I took an interest in his situation when I noticed that he was begging for money on social media. I was embarrassed for him and wanted to help. So, I reached out with a private message.
For our purposes here, we’ll refer to this young man as “John”. I’ve known his family for a number of years. I won’t bore you with the details of his life, but suffice it to say that John is in a tough place right now. He’s a high school dropout, working part time, and unable to pay for all his basic needs.
When I met with John, I quickly recognized that he had no idea how to plan a simple budget. After leading him through the process, he began to recognize things himself that were evident to me from the beginning of our conversation. When we were done, he looked at me and said, “Nobody ever taught me how to do this when I was in school!”
I was saddened by the declaration. And I wondered to myself why schools don’t spend more time teaching things that are fundamentally applicable to the “real world” these kids will inevitably face. After all, it seems such things would be far more useful than some of the other classes they spend their time on.
Yet, while it’s easy to point fingers at the schools, what about John’s parents? This actually illustrates an important aspect of our current educational woes— too many parents have completely abdicated the responsibility to educate their kids.
Think about it. When little Johnny became kindergarten age, Mom and Dad sent him off to his first day of school. At that very moment, there was an abdication. Johnny’s parents shifted their parental obligation to the public school system.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Given the circumstances, public education was — overall — probably a better option than what Johnny’s parents could have offered otherwise. But was a complete abdication necessary? Shouldn’t there have been some degree of oversight to what he was being taught— or, in this case, not being taught?
The reality is that John’s parents were capable of teaching simple budgeting and many of the other things related to it. After all, John’s Dad is self-employed and frugal. His mother runs the home. But somehow they missed the opportunity. And now, as a result, John is struggling.
Remember, this is just one example. I’m sure we could collectively come up with many things parents should do to ensure children get the best education that they can. But all of it requires involvement— not a complete abdication of parental responsibility.
I get it. We often look at those in education as the “professionals”. And that’s certainly true. But I think in saying such a thing that many parents simultaneously — intentional or not — convince themselves that they’re not smart enough to participate or play a key role in the process. And that’s largely just not true.
In saying this, I fully admit that the “professionals” sometimes contribute to such thinking themselves. Many movements that are led by parents to make changes in education are belittled, ridiculed, and even mocked. The treatment here is similar to the way adults sometimes treat children when they pat them on the head and tell them to go play. It’s a dismissive attitude that essentially says, “We know better than you do what’s best for your child.” It’s a “leave it up to us, we’re the experts” type of mentality. Parents have to rise above this.
When was the last time you looked at what your child is being taught in school? If you have checked, are you satisfied that it’s enough to prepare them for what’s ahead? If it’s not, what will you do about it?
Unless you home school, by the time your child graduates high school, they will have spent over 2,200 school days away from you. The most formative years of their lives will have been significantly impacted by the time spent away from home. Are you doing enough to try and compensate for — and yes, even correct — some of the ideas that your child comes home with?
Before closing, I should point out that John bears some responsibility for his circumstances too. Did he get a raw deal of sorts by not being taught some of the basics necessary to survive in the real world? Certainly. But now he’s faced with a choice— live life with a victim mentality or seek out ways to improve his situation.
I don’t pretend to know where John’s life will lead. What I do know is that there would be far less John’s in the world if parents abdicated less and involved themselves more in the education of their children.
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