"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.

One thought on “"All Above Average"

  1. Hi! Thanks, first, for the link to my post and your thoughtful post. My oldest children went to school and I was a huge advocate of public schooling. I believed thoroughly that a good education should be available to everyone. Unfortunately, it wasn't until I realized that my children were not only not being educated, but being bullied – in some cases by teachers – that I realized it's the school model that ultimately fails. This failure was not just viewed on my part at one school – but at different schools in different states and in districts with different socio-economic issues. My older children went to a high school in a low-income downtown district, a high school in a high brow, high tax “mega” district, in a small K-12 rural school and in larger surburban schools. In each case, the model of schools fails. I don't blame teachers, but I do blame our desire to keep children in what are essentially cubical preparation systems all day long. It's sad and tragic.

    My children have flourished as full-fledged members of society. They read, write, solve problems and enjoy their life and their passions. They ask questions. We answer them. Sometimes we don't know the answer and we look for it together.

    They are no longer bullied and made to feel small just because they are younger than those in charge.

    They are also 100 percent more kind, respectful and enjoyable to be around than they were in school. When they were in school, they acted out because they were constantly made to feel unimportant.

    Again…it's not the teachers (always)…it's the system itself. Forcing children to only associate with kids their own age forces them to become people they are not.

    Anyway…I'll stop here. But let the discussion continue! I enjoyed your post and hope to talk more.

    All best,
    Michelle Kennedy Hogan


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