Posts tagged " education "

COVID Victim or Victor?

December 21st, 2020 Posted by Practical Parenting 1 comment

We human beings habituate very easily to new ideas and actions. Growing up, my mother taught me to grease a pan by dipping a paper towel into Crisco shortening (hydrogenated oil was not a phrase we knew) and smearing it over the pan. Years later, when I set out to bake some cookies and realized that I didn’t have any Pam, I almost aborted my effort before remembering that women managed to bake before the invention of spray oil.

In that vein, a young mother told me that she needs to tell her son to take off his mask when he is home from daycare. In his four-year-old life, wearing a mask has become a norm. He doesn’t question it; instead, he questions when he is allowed to discard it.

What else are we being led to think of as normal? I am hearing refrains of low expectations for today’s students. Having missed so much school and with so much of school taking place on ZOOM or in classrooms with masked teachers, we should expect little of today’s children. They will lose math skills, have fewer communication skills, they will be behind— maybe we should just sign them up for years of government support because they aren’t being given the tools to succeed.

What a twisted and nefarious prediction! We used to highlight stories of success for our children. Today’s educational establishment and too many parents instead highlight stories of victimization and failure. There is no quicker way to turn our children into failures than to expect them to be so.

Each and every parent has the sacred responsibility to provide a path to success for his or her children. There are true stories, not of one unusual person, but of many people who triumphed over grueling circumstances. Are we actually going to use COVID as an excuse for failure when thousands of enormously successful people came out of slavery, arrived on these shores penniless and not knowing English, spent their formative years hiding from the Nazis, or fought life-threatening and debilitating childhood illnesses?

This pandemic continues to present challenges to parents. It has also made one of the overarching conflicts of our culture even more clear.  Each of us must choose to stand, and to have our children stand, in the line labeled “losers/victims”  or in the line labeled, “strivers/victors.” It is absolutely a choice, not a pre-determined reality.

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Don’t Be Shocked

November 12th, 2020 Posted by Susan's Musings 31 comments

Whatever the outcome of this election, about half of all Americans will believe that it is not honest and accurate. After I wrote last week’s Musing, Anne commented, “Not liking the results of the election is not credible evidence [of fraud].”

I responded, “You are absolutely correct that not liking the results doesn’t equal fraud. However, just as in any relationship, when you sweep problems under the carpet over many years, you erode trust. There have been “irregularities” for decades that have been ignored. These go back to non-partisan problems, such as the need for identifying every voter but the Democrats yelled “racism” anytime they were brought up and the GOP cowered. Also, there was little political capital to be gained by fixing these problems. This resembles how repairing infrastructure doesn’t win credit for local government while handing out tax money for new programs does. Then, everyone sounds shocked when the bridge collapses or the water is polluted. It’s not a shock–it was ignored when it was easier to fix. […]You can’t allow mistakes/fraud/carelessness for years and then expect people to accept that everything is on the up and up, especially after four years of hatred.”

The integrity of our elections is not the only area where those with an agenda push forward deliberately while most Americans have their eyes elsewhere. It happened with education over the past sixty years, resulting in many highly ignorant and anti-American university graduates. And it is happening in health care now.

You can easily see two simultaneous trends: While veteran doctors are being frustrated, demoralized, and insulted, incoming medical students are being vetted for Leftist leanings. What do I mean?

If you pay close attention, you might notice that doctors have routinely been demoted to being called “health care providers.” This is a not-so-subtle attempt to denigrate the years of study and hard work they put in to achieve their degrees. The old Soviet Union had more doctors and health care facilities per capita than did the United States. They also had worse quality health care with worse results. I don’t think that was unrelated to the fact that being a doctor was not a terribly lucrative or respected position.

Yet, we are moving in that direction by increasingly treating many of our doctors like commodities. Their administrative bosses want to wring the most amount of work out of them with the least amount of respect for their education, instincts, and devotion. Doctor burnout is real and increasing. Here are two articles that are a small sampling of, literally, hundreds that you can find: Doctors Are Fleeing the Medical Field and Here’s Why and Burnout by a Thousand Cuts. When health care deteriorates over the coming years, it should not be a shock.

Meanwhile, the test that aspiring doctors need to take to gain entrance to medical school is changing. Would you prefer to know that your doctor has a firm grasp of biology, chemistry, anatomy, and other hard sciences or that they are able to correctly name all the growing varieties of gender? There are only so many test questions that can be asked.

The focus of medical school is changing as well. This year, the incoming Class of 2024 at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine composed their own class oath. It included these words:

“I will champion diversity in both medicine and society, and promote an inclusive environment by respecting the perspectives of others and relentlessly seeking to identify and eliminate my personal biases.

‘I will be an ally to those of low socioeconomic status, the BIPOC community, the LGBTQIA+ community, womxn/women, differently-abled individuals, and other underserved groups in order to dismantle the systemic racism and prejudice that medical professionals and society have perpetuated…

‘I will restore trust between the health care community and the population in which I serve by holding myself and others accountable, and by combating misinformation in order to improve health literacy.”

The doctors I prefer actually treat all patients with respect. I also want my doctors to take pride in belonging to a field that has had many outstanding individuals who have toiled, labored, and sacrificed to serve their fellow human beings. I detest the arrogance that sanctimoniously says, “Those before us were terrible but we noble and wonderful students are different.”

What happens once you are out of medical school, practicing as a nurse or a doctor and you are slated to take part in a procedure that you see as unethical? For decades now, abortion has raised this issue. Now, we must throw in gender-change surgery. What if you think this is a breach of your promise to help heal? What if you think this has less to do with medicine and more to do with Leftist indoctrination? Welcome to being labeled a bigot and possibly losing your job.

No one paying attention should be surprised that Americans are increasingly losing faith in our elections. When people like John Fund, who in 2012 wrote the book, Who’s Counting?: How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk, were warning for decades that this was going to happen, it simply wasn’t of urgent concern for most of us. No one should be surprised that so many college students see free speech as a threat or that they support socialism. How many years will it be before we will be shocked, simply shocked, to discover that caring and competent doctors and nurses are increasingly difficult to find?

Now that I’ve grumbled, you might not believe it but I really am a Happy Warrior.
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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.

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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.)

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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?

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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.

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