Ahhh -- school. The great baby-sitter. The place we can send our children when we want time for ourselves. The place where other people will rear our kids for us. That great institution that ensures bright futures and secures successful careers. The key to our victory over smart, young Chinese prodigies.
And what would education be without also including after-school programs? No child can be really well-rounded without the best extracurricular facilities. Dancing? Soccer? Band? Football? Basketball? Gymnastics? Swimming? No, you can't pick just one or two! You have to do them all! Free time? Absolutely not! How will children learn time management, if they just sit around all day doing nothing?!?
Interestingly enough, they do. They learn much, much more than adults could probably ever imagine. They learn about what they are interested in, develop their imaginations, learn social behavior, and develop personal time management. Studies have increasingly shown the value of unstructured play and yes, even the value of not spending every waking moment in school. It seems, though, that parents are increasingly raising their expectations of what, exactly, education can and should do for children.
I recently discussed this topic with my sister Lexia
, and we both agreed that parents nowadays expect schools -- and I'll extend this to the government -- to rear their children. American parents (and perhaps this phenomenon has no country limits; I don't know) expect schools and after-school programs to provide their children with all the correct principles of living: good manners and socially acceptable behavior, conscientious eating habits and a firm understanding of physical activity, the value of hard work, time management, how to read, how to write, and even how to think. What's more, parents believe that it's the government's responsibility to increase the schools' capacities to teach all of these things.
Now, here's the interesting thing to me: it seems that this parental expectation spans the entire economic line. That is, parents who don't have the time or the means to teach their children rely on schools to teach their children for them. Yet parents who have all the money (and probably time) in the world also rely on schools to teach their children all the things they need to know. They send them to top-notch, brand-name schools in the hopes that these schools will grant them access to a successful life.
Why? I think it's because putting responsibility on schools and the government is an easy way out. Parents are looking for an easy answer. When a child or young adult has problems, it's a lot easier to say that teachers and politicians are not living up to your expectations than to admit that you yourself are not. I believe that parents want the absolute best for their children, but somewhere in time, the "best" became getting kids involved in more and more activities and having schools cram information into them until their minds get completely overwhelmed! The "best" became the most prestigious and cultural. Whatever happened to teaching our own children -- spending time with them and helping them discover how to learn and be curious and independent? Sure, if you spend more time at home, then you spend less time at work. Less work is less money, and less money means not being able to give kids everything they want and everything you think they deserve. But what are the trade-offs?
These articles list some of the most important ones:
Sure, not all parents put the blame on others for their children's problems. Sure, I'm generalizing -- because I think it's a general American problem. It's also one of the most serious problems and one that deserves more attention than it gets. I hope, hope, hope I don't forget what I believe now when I'm a parent!
Thing I'm thankful for: my wonderful parents. They weren't perfect (and they probably spoiled me somewhat), but they did teach me to love learning and to govern myself based on the principles they taught. Thanks, mom and dad!