What Influence Will You Have on YOUR Kids


Children "Used as Fashion Aids"

Ladies of Fashion starve their happiness to feed their vanity, and their love to feed their pride.

- Charles Caleb Colton

We cannot fashion our children after our desires, we must have them and love them as they have been given to us.

- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


Source: www.clarkperkinsphoto.com

by Sean Coughlan

Parents are more interested in treating children as fashion accessories than in their education, say teachers.  The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) heard that some families were shirking their caring and providing responsibilities.  Ralph Surman, a primary teacher from Nottingham, said parents were asking schools to "potty train" children.  "Body piercings, haircuts and high fashion are their priority," he told the ATL annual conference in Torquay.

Mr Surman accused parents of becoming "more dependent on state intervention" and failing to provide even the most basic of training for their own children.  Parents were ready to treat children as "mini-adults from the age of three."  But they also wanted to dump them on someone else at the first opportunity because they were a "burden and an interference with getting on with their own lives."  Mr Surman, deputy head teacher at Cantrell primary school, said: "Potty training, table manners, meals, social skills, drug testing, before and after school care, sex and contraception advice become the responsibility of someone else.  The worry is that some parents simply see their child as a fashion item whose real needs will be catered for by somebody else.  What has happened to parental responsibility?  Are parents responsible for their children in the same way as they used to be?  Perhaps it's time that someone reminded parents that they too are responsible for their children," rather than "parking responsibility on the doorsteps of schools".  He was speaking in a debate about providing extended services before and after the school day.

Parents' rights and responsibilities have been a major theme in speeches given by the Education Secretary, Ruth Kelly, since she took up the post last December.  At last year's ATL conference, Mr Surman recommended that teenage girls' should carry age ratings because of their sexual content.

Sean Coughlan is the BBC News education reporter, reporting from the ATL conference

Source: news.bbc.co.uk 23 March 2005 © BBC MMV

Okay.  I don't want to beat this subject to death and I do mention it more than once in other places.  But here it is again - my opinion on child rearing.  Going backward down the economic ladder is much harder than climbing up in the first place.  Fewer people end it all because they never made it than because they had something, then lost it.  (Lots of unhappiness is relative unhappiness, not absolute unhappiness.)  When both parents work to hang on to the standard of living they had when they lived with their parents or that they had achieved during the boom times in the 1990s, there is less energy and less time to interact with one's child or children.  Fair enough.  But the nanny or the school will never do the job an unstressed mom with her offspring as her primary focus could have done.  Forget ideas about quality time.  Quantity time matters when children are younger.  When other people are the primary nurturers for their kids, mother and father cannot always insert enough influence to ensure the kids stay on the preferred track.  That's just reality.

Nursery, kindergarten and elementary school are not necessary.  Let me say that again.  They - are - not - needed.  Any mother with a reasonable IQ and sufficient desire can teach her children to read, to do math, to draw, the rudiments of geography, et cetera.  She must have the television OFF during the day.  All day, every day OFF.  I think off in the evenings is best, too, but maybe Dad can't accept that.  Okay.  Humour Dad.  Mom during the day can take kids on field trips, picnics, walks in the park.  Further, she can establish a relationship with them - due to shared experiences - and that relationship will run deep.  She can explain what behaviour is acceptable and why.  She can encourage, train, educate, care for - and most of all, she can know (and love) her children.

Or she can have a job.

If she likes her job better than staying home to be mother to her kids - then why, one wonders, did she have them?  (I suppose so they can be fashion accessories is as good a reason as any.)  Perhaps some people don't have kids because having successful careers is more appealing (New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark is one such).  I respect that.

If a mother would rather stay home with her children but is a single mother and must work, it would be best if her mother or sister could help her raise her kids because a close relative would be most likely to love them, not just to tend them.  But sometimes one must make the best of things.  Understood.

The downside of staying home with kids - and the reason a lot of mothers don't do it - is that it means they need to stay married to the father of their children for it to really work.  Later, when the children don't need so much time - what to do then?  There is no way to catch back up in a career - sure, one can often go back to doing the same thing as before the kids came along, but never making as much, never going as far as one might've.  This is true - and can be an ugly reality for many.  But it isn't like Mom is left with nothing - far from it.  She has a pruned career, perhaps - but she can end up with lovely children that she respects and that respect her - children she knows really well.  Trust me - that beats a gold watch when she retires.  (Besides, statistics show her husband will have made more money by having a stay-at-home wife than he would've made otherwise.)  Maybe it isn't for everyone, but I personally think more mothers should consider it than seem to.  My homeschooled children are now young adults.  One has a bachelors in animation, the other an MBA.  They both work for the same company here in Wellington.  They're good friends.

I'm not saying the way I chose is perfect - far from it.  But, despite the drawbacks, I don't regret having taken that path.

Why "Pester Power" Means the Magic of Childhood Is over by Age 11

Childhood is over by the tender age of 11, research suggests.  Parents admit giving in to "pester pressure" and allowing their children an array of grown-up privileges.  Increasingly, youngsters can stay out late, drink alcohol, have sex and watch inappropriate films.  Little girls in particular are growing up faster than ever - they abandon playing with dolls past the age of 6 and go on to pierce their ears, dye their hair and wear make-up.

Researchers for Random House publishers who surveyed 1,170 parents with children under 18 found that 55% per cent believed children were "young adults" by 11.  Almost 3/4 allowed their youngsters to drink alcohol at home before they turned 18, even though their own parents had reserved it for adults only.  Just under half of parents let their 16-year-olds stay the night at a boyfriend or girlfriend's house, although they themselves had been banned from doing so until 18.

Other findings show that 35% of parents allow their under-12s to pierce their ears, 54% let their daughters dye their hair and wear make-up by the age of 14, and 57% let children watch 18-certificate films before the legal age.  Almost 3/4 admitted their children had "scant" regard for their authority and regularly acted against their will.  The survey was commissioned to coincide with the launch of popular children's author Jacqueline Wilson's book My Sister Jodie.

She said that youngsters act like adults at an "alarmingly early age.  I know girls are desperate to look cool, but I wish they didn't all want to wear very high heels and inappropriately tight trendy clothes, I'm not saying all under-12s should wear puff-sleeved dresses and little white socks and tee-strap sandals as I had to, but at least you could run about and play properly in them.  I wish children did still play with dolls past the age of 6.  I played all sorts of elaborate games with my dolls until I was at secondary school."

Miss Wilson said her '50s childhood had been very different.  "For the most part, children did as they were told," she said.  "We might have privately disagreed with our parents or teachers, but we didn't dare argue too much.  It's good that we listen and want the best for our children nowadays - but perhaps we should remember that they are only children and need a little loving guidance."

Source: dailymail.co.uk 3 March 2008

The Limits of Knowledge Acquired Via Instruction

The education explosion is producing a vast number of people who want to live significant, important lives
but lack the ability to satisfy this craving for importance by individual achievement.
The country is being swamped with nobodies who want to be somebodies.

- Eric Hoffer

If education is taken to mean merely "the process of acquiring knowledge" then it is unlikely to solve social problems: an encyclop√¶dic knowledge of trivia by itself does not make a person good.  However if we instead ask whether schools can solve social problems, the question gains complexity.  Our textbook enumerates the purpose of schools as not just transmission of knowledge but also values, norms, culture, ideologies - and preparation of students for adulthood and citizenship.  Some of these goals seem expressly designed to solve social problems - but are they being effectively met?  If not, why not?  My own experience indicates that schools have not always been effective...

I attended high school in the 1960s.  A product of a working-class suburb (miles of teensy identical houses), I was tracked, stroked, and challenged by a wonderful, caring principal.  I earned a full scholarship and strode off to a prestigious wealthy university - only to find that there I was invisible in class and snubbed in the dorm.  I had never encountered this before.  Hurt, I took the easy way out - I quit and married someone who still thought I was special.  I had meant to return soon - but that didn’t happen.

Even without a degree, and as a single mother, I was successful in my career.  This enabled me to move into the most expensive school district so that my daughter could get an early start in learning social ropes.  She had an astounding IQ but had marked behaviour problems: she didn’t even seem to try.  She squandered the sacrifices I was making.  I hated the requisite parent-teacher meetings - I felt we both received nothing but criticism.  So I enrolled her in a Catholic school and later a boarding school - but nothing seemed to work.  Ultimately, she never got past her junior year, her abusive boyfriend - or the age of 17.

Meanwhile, I had remarried.  Having painfully learnt some vital lessons, I quit work to raise my two sons.  They were home-schooled - initially because we lived in a rural area outside Charlotte with a mediocre school, then later because we traveled extensively, first in the US, then in other countries.  When I say home-schooled, I mean merely that I taught them to read, write and do arithmetic.  I gave them each a library card, a personal computer with an internet connection, and unlimited encouragement and attention.  I never once left them with a babysitter.  We talked endlessly, read together, explored, went for walks, wrote letters to Congressmen, and fed ducks.

How my sons would make the transition to adulthood worried me.  Our education was totally informal - was it sufficient? I didn’t know then (though I now can see that our method of home-schooling seems to have succeeded).

Back to what I think about the potential of schools to fix social ills - though from a poor background, I was mentored - that got me a long way, but couldn’t make up for poor preparation for the real world and my shaky self-esteem.  My daughter attended excellent schools and was intelligent but couldn’t overcome constant institutional and parental criticism.  She turned to her friends.  My two sons never lacked attention - or esteem.  Though they received virtually nothing in the way of formal education, they had constant encouragement, assistance and opportunity.  They both prospered.

Students have different talents and interests and shouldn’t all have to learn exactly the same things.  They could all be taught basic skills (both personal and scholastic) including civic instruction - how their country came into being, how it works, and what ideals it stands for.  But constant tests and negative comparisons don’t do struggling students any good.  Everybody is interested in something - finding out where talents lie often requires a bit of investigation on a school’s part.  Certainly it is true that not all children are created identical - so if a student loves fixing cars, making him feel proud of his mechanical talent seems useful.  In some areas, society might be (at least economically) better off with another accountant rather than another mechanic.  But if the latter choice creates a happy and well adjusted citizen - that and not knowledge of a balance sheet, will solve at least one small social ill in one area - and that’s a start.

The overall structure of education is fine, and perfectly capable of addressing social problems. The issue is one of proper application - there is too much focus on academics and too little on vocational training, too much focus on instilling regimented behaviour and too little on accepting individuality, too much focus on covering a set list of "worthy books" and too little time spent on reading for pleasure.

This isn’t to say that basic skills should be ignored or that students should not be told if they aren’t on track to obtain the rudiments society has deemed necessary for all citizens.  But too many secondary school students who dream of going to college find their decent high school grades don’t actually mean that they have requisite skills to handle college-level coursework.  Worse, many discover this in college when it’s far too late to do anything about it.  Yes - good students should be singled out and praised for accomplishments; bad students shouldn’t be lied to - but they should be redirected, and certainly never told they are failures! In this way, schools can address social problems.

The Happiest Days of our Lives

When we grew up and went to school
There were certain teachers who would
Hurt the children in any way they could

"OOF!" [someone being hit]

By pouring their derision
Upon anything we did
And exposing every weakness
However carefully hidden by the kid

The Wall    Pink Floyd
30 November 1979

Of course, the way most people see the world is from a window in their own Wall.

I had a full scholarship to attend the school of my choice and I threw it away.  No one in my extended family had graduated from college.  No female worked unless she was divorced or widowed.  A woman’s job was to marry and raise a family.  I didn’t really understand that that was what I believed, but, lacking any external push or pull, that’s where I drifted.  No one in my family had thought I should go to university.  No one at university seemed to understand that I had no internal template for success.

My daughter, on the other hand, wasn’t encouraged to do well, she was merely roundly (and consistently) criticised for doing badly from both sides.

My sons were encouraged to try everything.  I bought them educational software, a chemistry set, paints, violins, seeds, a microscope, telescope, tools.  I required nothing but just tried to open as many doors as I could.  (This was made easier by the fact that we did not own a tv but had hundreds of books.)

I would conclude from my life experience that I agree with Yale psychiatrist James Comer that schools should become advocates for students.  Attention and encouragement are the common threads I’ve seen in my life that make the difference between remarkable performance and diversion down a less-rewarding path.

I would further suggest considering that juniors in high-school could each be assigned a semester of mentoring a 6th-grader - teaching a student what he or she needs to know to get by in a selected topic.  The next year, the 7th-grader’s grade in that subject - and opinion of the mentor’s help - could be used to adjust the mentor’s senior grade.

Or society could encourage mothers to home-school their children - certainly in the lower grades.  It isn’t difficult, requiring mostly commitment, love, and time (the same characteristics that make the best elementary-school teachers).

Pink (now White) Floyd

The Prussian Educational System

The Prussians were defeated by Napoleon at the battle of Jena in 1806.  They decided that the reason was because their soldiers thought for themselves on the battlefield instead of following orders.  Prussian philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte, a professor at the University of Berlin, wrote that the state was a necessary instrument of social and moral progress.  He felt the state shaped the ultimate moral nature of society (this concept directly influenced both Von Schelling and Hegel who took similar views).  Fichte's ideas about the "duties of the state" was added to John Locke's view that "children are a blank slate."  Schools could be the ones to write on that slate and turn out citizens exactly like the ones that were needed.  (Aldous Huxley replicated this idea in his novel, Brave New World.)

Prussia established a "scientifically" tiered educational system which defined what was to be learned, what was to be thought about, how long it was to be thought about and what to think about next - in other words, mind control.  (This, of course, set a bad precedent for the Germans.)

About half a percent of society were considered the elite.  The children in this group were taught to think.  The next 5.5% were partly taught to think.  The rest were taught "harmony, obedience, freedom from stressful thinking and how to follow orders."  What made this work was to discourage reading in the first decade of life - to read was to be able to independently investigate.  (That would never do!)  Thus it was differences in knowledge which allowed differences in class to most easily be managed.

Fairy Tale

Imagine a fairy tale country that has a government based on freedom, democracy and basic human rights for all.
Now, imagine that to prepare that country’s children for the rights and responsibilities
of living in and contributing to the free, democratic society, the government institutes a strange practice:
Beginning at the age of 5, children in the country are confined for 13 years as hostages to a totalitarian institution
run as a dictatorship.
In that institution, children’s movement and bodily functions are controlled and regimented.
Children cannot get out of seats or out of rooms without permission.
Calls to parents are forbidden except in emergencies.
Children have no right to question the validity of the curriculum, no right to critical thinking in deviance to the teacher’s agenda,
no right to dispute or influence procedures for maintaining order and guidance.
Children have no right to a curriculum based on independent study,
or to have honored their own learning styles and educational needs and goals.
The children can only go out and get exercise for 10-20 minutes once or twice per day,
but that stops totally around the age of 10.
Children are taught that the democracy exists, but are not allowed to take part in it.
At the age of 18, children in that country are released.
They are expected to be ready to function in society, advanced education and careers
as self-motivating, free-thinking, innovative and assertive individuals.
Now imagine that this fairy tale is not a fairy tale, but the very real state of the American Educational Institution for the past 100 years.

Source: childadvocate.org

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