Part 3 of a 3-part series
Part 1: The U.S. standing in relation to the rest of the world in terms of learning.
Part 2: The big difference between what’s expected in college and how unprepared high school students are to take on independent study. (It’s a small part of why the large majority of college students take 5-6 years to graduate.)
Let’s return to Mr. Friedman’s article that began this 3-part post. In it, he cites Amanda Ripley’s new book, “The Smartest Kids in the World, and How They Got That Way.” To quote Ms. Ripley, “other countries are doing ‘a lot better’ than the United States in education because—simply put—they’re more serious about it…And that sense of educational purpose has its roots in both policy and in culture.”
I’d like to focus on culture for a moment.
Mr. Friedman’s article featured a teacher letter. And this teacher nails just one aspect of the kind of “after-school” lack of seriousness that is a cause of un-readiness.
The teacher explains, “This is a real conversation I had with a failing student who was being quite sincere in her comments: ‘I know you’re a really good teacher, but you don’t seem to realize I have two hours a night of Facebook and over 4,000 text messages a month to deal with. How do you expect me to do all this work?”
Parent role at home
For the great majority of teens who are to immature to guide themselves on what they “should” be doing after school, parents need to start the process of helping their teens assume responsibility for themselves and on how they use their time. (That includes being “over-scheduled” after school, too.)
Parents should discuss setting boundaries and limit time spent electronically. Explain that productive study is uninterrupted by any devices. It’s a lesson teens can learn only with parental guidance. (Teachers do not go home with students to see that they study.) The alternative of not learning this lesson is hugely expensive college costs—accompanied by a delayed degree or no degree at all.
Parent participation in school
To quote Mr. Friedman, “And Amanda points a finger at you and me, as parents—not because we aren’t involved in school, but because too often, we are involved in the wrong way.”
“Parents,” says Ms. Ripley, “are happy to show up at sports events, video camera in hand, and they’ll come to school to protest a bad grade.
“We love going to our kids’ games and seeing them perform on stage in a play or in a concert…But to really help our kids, we have to do so much more as parents. We have to change expectations about how hard kids should work.”