"All Above Average"

Michelle Kennedy Hogan has a neat post in response to Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom.  She writes:

I’m afraid the Tiger Mother is too results oriented and if we’ve seen anything, it’s that the high-pressure of children may produce results, but it also produces children who don’t want to go home. I don’t view my children as a job I have to complete but instead as people I like to be around. If that makes us dreadfully average, well then so be it.

Chua wants her children to be number-one in everything.  Not only is that an unreasonable goal (not everyone can be number-one in anything), but it makes the children losers in the quest for a satisfied mind:

When my life is ended, my time has run out
My trials and my loved ones, I’ll leave them no doubt
But one thing’s for certain, when it comes my time
I’ll leave this old world with a satisfied mind. (Red Hayes and Jack Rhodes)

 That’s a much better goal than having been number-one in things that no one, ultimately, is going to care about or remember.

It was interesting for me, as a teacher, to look at Hogan’s blog.  She’s an advocate of what she calls “unschooling,” home schooling, but not “uneducating.”

As I have been editing, this week, the chapter in Beyond the Blogosphere on education, I’m particularly attuned to those who have chosen to opt out of the educational system American society provides.

My problem with home schooling is not its lack of effectiveness.  With a dedicated parent/teacher involved, it can provide superb education.  Thing is, few parents have the skills, temperament, and time to give their children what’s needed.  Most have to rely on organized educational institutions.  What’s unfortunate is that these have failed to the point where the individual parent, even if they want to keep their students in school and help out, can’t have an impact.

The tragedy for the society as a whole is that the rest of us lose the contribution people like Hogan could be making for all.  Yes, some of them, like Hogan, write books, blogs, and articles to help others at home schooling, but home schooling isn’t the answer to our problems with our schools.  It leaves too many with sub-standard education.

Somehow, we need to make the Hogans of the world welcome in our schools.  They can provide a counter-balance to the testing mania and the competitiveness that is destroying the effectiveness of public schools as venues of education for everyone.  We can have as many great and trained teachers as possible, but our schools will still fail when parents concentrate on making their kids number-one… for that always comes at the expense of others.

The reasons our schools are failing is much more complex than this, of course, but real parental involvement, as much more than just bodies organized and directed by school officials, can make a great deal of difference.

That, unfortunately, will never happen while schools and teachers continue to be judged by the numbers.