Posts tagged " education "

Uncovering the School Cover-Up

July 30th, 2020 Posted by Susan's Musings 32 comments

Jason Gay is a talented writer and, despite a general apathy about  the topic, I sometimes do read his sports columns for the Wall Street Journal. His words are clear and witty, unexpectedly enticing me to spend a few minutes on matters of baseball, football and basketball.

Mr. Gay also writes on family issues and while his approach is often comical, a recent article left me more annoyed than amused. He lamented how poorly he was coping with his children  at home and how exhausted both he and his wife are. The idea that schools might not open in the fall loomed as an insurmountable challenge to him.

While I didn’t love the general tone of the piece, what particularly irritated me were two paragraphs in the middle.

“Let’s not ignore the serious problems we’re creating—how these issues with schools are causing learning gaps and putting disadvantaged children at an even greater disadvantage. Children who need extra educational support are in crisis…

‘Meanwhile, privileged families are creating their own little education yurts with tutors and tennis coaches and pastry chefs and widening the chasm between families who can and cannot bathe problems in money.”

Excuse me? Where do I even begin to list the many flaws in this?

Let’s look at his, “serious problems we’re creating.” The fact is, that schools have been creating serious problems for decades now that result in more “disadvantaged children.”

Society has been living a great lie—that the government can replace devoted parents. Do you want to have a child without a spouse? Go ahead! All families are equal. Do you want to invite a rotating cadre of boyfriends to live with you and your children? It will be the school’s job to see that your children are emotionally healthy. Are you an immigrant? The school’s job is to welcome your child but not to integrate him into American life or demand that he or she learn English—after all, every culture is equal and all languages are valuable. Do you tell your children that studying is a waste of time and model poor behavior and decision-making? Not to worry! The school will make your child learn as well as a child whose parents read to him and sit with her at healthy family meals.

We have prioritized imparting social and political views over education. We have treated students as bargaining pawns in union negotiations and destroyed what used to be an admirable public school system that produced literate, responsible and productive graduates no matter the poverty level in their homes. Was it imperfect? Yes. But there was no pretense that schools could and should fill every academic, social, emotional and psychological need.

Certainly, many children with special needs are more impacted by the closing of programs geared specifically to them. However, an incredible number of children who need “extra educational support” need that support because the schools they attend are awful and because we have devalued family and home life. We have pretended that having children is not the awesome blessing and responsibility it is, but rather one of hundreds of  “lifestyle choices.” The closure of schools has shone a light on how we have deemphasized the importance of being a parent and how unskilled even well-educated parents are in their most important task of raising the next generation. It did not create the problem.

I can’t ignore the disparagement of wealth that Jason Gay presents in the second paragraph I quoted. Money does not guarantee raising successful children—if it did, Seattle and Portland would most likely not be the disaster areas they are today. But for every parent who is hiring a pastry chef, thousands more are standing in the kitchen and baking with their children. Many more parents are reading stories and playing games with their children than are hiring private tutors. Not having to scramble to put food on the table so that you can spend time reading and playing games with your children is an advantage to which everyone should aspire rather than one that should be mocked.

“Bathe problems in money”? Really? Is it worthy of derision when parents delay gratification and work hard so that they can take care of their own children rather than expecting their fellow citizens to do so? If Mr. Gay’s children needed medical, educational or psychological help I imagine he would be happy to scrimp and sacrifice and utter prayers of gratitude for a saving account that would allow him not to “bathe” the problem in money but to solve, mitigate and deal with it.

I will still continue to enjoy Mr. Gay’s writing. But this article badly missed the mark.

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Vaccine Development: Seeking Poets?

April 30th, 2020 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting, Susan's Musings 28 comments

My husband and I were discussing whether the production of pharmaceuticals and other vital commodities would move back to the United States from China. He brought up an angle that had eluded me.

“We aren’t raising enough people with the education and ability to produce many of these things,” he said. “To make matters worse, not only are we not producing nearly enough design and production engineers, chemists, and people who know how to operate numerically controlled machine tools,  powerful unions have placed almost insurmountable impediments to manufacturing in America and have pushed wages beyond the economically sustainable.  Add to that all the politicians willing to buy votes with unrealistic economic promises and seeking power via unnecessary regulations, and we simply are years from returning to a manufacturing economy. That’s without even mentioning lawyers poised to attack any successful company.

With that in mind, my attention was caught by a newspaper article that was part of a series of how a variety of professionals are working during this pandemic. We have all read so much over the past few years about a renewed focus on STEM— science, technology, engineering and math—exactly those areas in which my husband was declaring our country to be deficient. This particular article featured a science teacher developing remote lessons. Although meant as a laudatory piece, it actually showed how meaningless a STEM label can be. To paraphrase Shakespeare, “A touchy-feely humanities class by any other name would still be a liberal arts class.”

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From Abram’s Warriors to Our Children

November 10th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance 3 comments

Your Mother’s Guidance by Rebecca Masinter

One of the best-known transmitters of ancient Jewish wisdom, Rashi, gives us a definition of parenting in his remarks on Genesis 14:14.   His words are foundational to our understanding of our role as parents. Abram goes out to rescue his nephew, Lot, who has been taken captive and he takes with him, chanichav, his trainees, or the ones he had been mechanech, educating, in his home.  Rashi helps us out and defines the root of the word chinuch used to describe these people in words that I am roughly translating as, “This word chinuch is a term of the initiation or beginning of a person or tool’s usage in the manner he will continue in for the future, and this is the meaning of King Solomon’s statement, ‘Train a child…’ (Proverbs 22:6).” The Hebrew word in Proverbs, translated as the verb ‘train’ is the same as the noun for those men Abram took with him to war.

And there we have it—the idea that what we’re doing as parents is not scrambling day to day as we try to cope and get through one more bedtime or one more carpool. We are training and equipping our children for their life journey, for the path that is uniquely theirs and that they will continue on their whole lives long.  We see this idea in the verse that Rashi quotes from, “Train or educate a child according to his way.”  This in itself is a meaningful line and is quoted extensively in parenting classes, but it isn’t the entire verse.  The verse ends, “…even when he becomes old he won’t sway from it.”

Have you ever wondered why King Solomon uses the term, “even when he becomes old…”?  Why didn’t he say, even when he grows up or becomes an adult he won’t depart from it?  I think that this insight is at the root of all parenting.  King Solomon knows that chinuch isn’t about what the child will be like when he is 18 or 30, chinuch is about raising a child so that straight through to the end of his life, when he is an old man, he is still on the path his parents started him on.  Chinuch isn’t short sighted; quite the opposite.

The message is that that our task as parents is to begin with the end in mind.  Chinuch involves thinking about what our child’s unique path is that is truly inherent to him and that will carry him through his whole life, and what we need to do to develop, facilitate, and enhance that journey.

Those of you who have been with me on Your Mother’s Guidance for a while know that I really don’t like to share specific parenting how-tos.  I like to share concepts and ideas we can each think about and implement in our own ways for our own families.  The reason gets to this core definition of chinuch.  No two children will have the same life journey.  No two families are even remotely similar, and no one other than the two parents God has entrusted with the responsibility for those children can possibly know what is the right chinuch for that child. 

Mrs. Bruria Schwab once shared with me a lesson from her father who told her that chinuch is compared to a boat.  A boat travels on the ocean on its own path and no other boat can exactly follow the same path.  You can see where a boat is going and try to follow in the same direction, but you will be hit by different currents, winds, and tides, and even if you end up in the same place, you will not have gotten there exactly the same way. 

Parenting is envisioning the end goal for each child. Where can this child be as an old man or woman? What does he need to help him get there?  No two people will be the same.  This truly is the beautiful and crucial job of mothers. 

Find a few minutes to get out of the daily scramble every now and then and tap into the long term picture.  It may be that we will still do many of the same things we do now, but our motives and emotions will be completely different when we’re doing them as parents who are initiating our children onto the path of life that they will continue living long into the future.

2 Book Reviews: Girls on the Edge and The Collapse of Parenting

November 5th, 2019 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting, Reading Recommendations No Comment yet

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how eye-opening I found Dr. Leonard Sax’s book, Boys Adrift. Since that time, I have read two more of the doctor’s books: Girls on the Edge and The Collapse of Parenting. I highly recommend them both. Let me share some of my take-aways from these books.

Dr. Sax spends a great deal of time visiting different schools. On one of these trips, he came across an optional physics class in an all-girl school that appealed to an unusually high percentage of the students. A conversation with the perceptive teacher revealed that she taught topics in a different order from that standardly used when teaching girls. Nothing dumbed down, nothing left out—simply starting with a concept that appealed more to the female mind so that the girls were interested and “hooked into” the idea of learning physics. (This works in the reverse as well, of course. Many of today’s literature assignments are geared for girls and our boys’ interest wanes.) That’s an insight I could have used when homeschooling.

I found similar “aha” moments in The Collapse of Parenting. My husband and I certainly parented in the more traditional mold. I was still surprised to discover from this book areas in which I had been seduced by popular thought. Dr. Saks focuses a great deal on how to pass along your primary values to your children, especially in a culture that is working against you. His chapters on the fragility of today’s children and the importance of transmitting the value of humility (which paradoxically makes for stronger children) are tremendously worthwhile. 

On one hand, I find the plethora of books on parenting to be a disturbing phenomenon. I think that they add to parents’ feelings of incompetence and reliance on misguided “experts.” However, the reality is that our children are growing up in a world where we and they face unhealthy influences emanating from places ranging from their pediatrician’s office to schools to entertainment to the halls of Washington DC. These exert tremendous pressure whether or not we seek direction from them. In that atmosphere, we need to be extremely vigilant and deliberate in how and what we do. Books like those of Dr. Sax can raise questions, stiffen our spines and remind us to carefully choose and guard what matters to us.

(If you do like what you see and purchase using the links in this post, we will receive a small commission on the purchase.)

Will Wonders Never Cease

July 26th, 2019 Posted by On Our Mind No Comment yet

I don’t agree with Senator Elizabeth Warren about much, but this morning was the exception to the rule. I read a statement of hers suggesting that people buy houses they cannot afford in order to have access to better public schools.

I can’t speak to how much of reaching beyond one’s means to buy a home is attributable to this, but I do agree that it is a disgrace that public schools in so many areas (poor ones in particular) are disastrous. I would love to ask the Senator why and how she thinks they got to be so. Only two generations ago my very poor parents and their siblings got an excellent education in the public schools.

My answer to that question is that liberal policies and Democrat domination of the inner city, including selling the futures of poor children for contributions from the teachers union, destroyed public education.  What is her answer?

Dragons in Bureaucratic Clothing

June 16th, 2019 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting 1 comment

Gazing at their newborns, most parents are ready to slay evil ogres and behead fire-breathing dragons to keep their precious new baby safe. Unfortunately, over the years, the perils facing their child will rarely appear in such easily recognizable forms.  Instead they will often be cloaked in commonly accepted norms and standard practices.

How many young mothers today shake their heads condescendingly at the memory of their own great-grandmothers meticulously preparing bottles of formula? Yet the prevailing notion of that day was that scientifically engineered nutrition was better than breastfeeding. The trick is not to feel superior but instead to ask what might be today’s equally foolish and unsupportable fallacies.

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Differentiated What?

December 3rd, 2018 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting 2 comments

When a friend of mine chose to homeschool her daughter, it greatly agitated her sister. This sibling didn’t raise the usual bugaboo about socialization. Rather, she was horrified at the idea that “just anyone” felt capable of teaching a little girl to read. 

Her consternation made more sense when my friend shared that this sister was a reading specialist, who had invested years and money in training. No wonder my friend’s confidence in her own abilities, despite a glaring lack of credentials, upset her sister.

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Let Anthropologie Run Local Schools

December 14th, 2017 Posted by On Our Mind No Comment yet

Our local government schools had a late starting time today due to inclement weather. There had to be at least an 1/8 of an inch on our lawn this morning! Here’s an idea. I have no clue what the most popular mall stores are with children and teens, but how about linking school closings to store closings? I’m not the only one who notices that malls are packed on days that schools cancel classes because of weather. If you can get to Nordstrom, you can get to class.

An Honest Man

September 13th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 16 comments

Sometimes, what I start out thinking I am going to write about and what I end up saying are entirely different. Last week was a case in point. I intended to write about the book I had just read, Will and Ariel Durant: A Dual Autobiography, but from an entirely different perspective than I ended up doing.

As I read, I was captivated by the honesty of Will Durant. Over the course of a long life, he often found his ideas tested by reality and he showed immense strength of character and depths of wisdom in a willingness to question some of his strongest convictions.

Relatively early in his career, his socialist leanings absorbed a harsh blow when he and his wife, Ariel, travelled to Russia during its Stalinist era. What they saw was far from the worker’s paradise in which they believed. Over the years, Mr. Durant developed an understanding of human nature that sought to merge his affection for the ideals of socialism with the reality of what actually motivates people to work hard.

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Too Sophisticated for Scandal

May 10th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 44 comments

When I was a teenager, I knew my friend Toby’s grandparents as gracious, attractive and generous pillars of the community. When Toby shared their story with me we both thought it highly romantic. It seems that Mrs. D. was engaged to a friend of Mr. D. At the engagement party, Mr. D. came to celebrate with his friend and meet the fiancée. Shortly thereafter my friend’s future grandmother called off her betrothal. In only a few weeks, she announced a new one—to Mr. D.

When one of their children repeated the story on the occasion of Mr. and Mrs. D.’s 50th anniversary, it was indeed a charming tale that brought smiles to their children and grandchildren’s faces. Only years later did I stop to think how upset and worried Mrs. D.’s parents must have been and how painful and embarrassing this was for the jilted groom and his family. The scandalous event probably animated neighborhood gossip for many months. Fifty years down the road revealed a happy end, but at the time it would have been perfectly plausible to see this as a catastrophic and immature infatuation.

What does this have to do with the recent French election?

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