To Begin a Dialogue on Parenting and Education

From a But If Nots reader

I’ve enjoyed following your blog. Glad you are doing it!! On the way home this evening I was listening to Market Place and heard this commentary. I thought of you. Here’s the link. Anything you’d like to add would be entertained and appreciated.

The link points to a brief interview with Michelle Rhee from the NPR show Marketplace.  Therein, Michelle talks about parenting in America and how it affects education.  Says Michelle

We’ve lost our competitive spirit. We’ve become so obsessed with making kids feel good about themselves that we’ve lost sight of building the skills they need to actually be good at things.

I agree with force.  When I went to India, to help setup workforce preparedness training for large consultancies over there, I was blown away by the sense of urgency to improve,  by the open competition to get better, by the expectancy of young people to perform or get run over.  After just the first day there, after meeting with the development team at Wiipro – on its state of the art employee training campus – I called home and somberly told my wife that we in America are guilty of low expectations of our children.

Now, finally, this whole notion of American parenting as insufficient is all the rage on the internet.  Thanks largely to Amy Chua and her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, excerpted last week in the Wall Street Journal.  Dr. Chua contrasts Asian parenting with western parenting and argues that Asian parenting is superior.

Since reading the article, I have been wondering how to tackle this subject.  It’s a big topic and deserves more than the usual But If Not flippancy.  So I am going to do an entire series on it. 

First up is an invitation to, my friend, Mike Kalt, to frame the question and write a post with his thoughts on the subject.  Mike is a semi-retired, unabashed liberal with quick and funny wit.  He has a Ph.D. in political science, an incredible world travel log, and is the last interesting person to come from Detroit. 

I have invited Mike to be a regular contributor to this site – to be the antidote to my free market leave-well-enough-alone-and-all-will-be-well rantings.  Perhaps this can be a place where right and left actually talk to each other.  So look for, read, and comment on Mike’s posts. 

As for the suggestions from readers, thank you and keep them coming.  I am interested only in everything and am happy to be drawn into a conversation about what you want to talk about . . . except the New York Yankees.

Here are other But If Nots on Education:

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6 Responses to To Begin a Dialogue on Parenting and Education

  1. Pingback: Tiger Moms and the National Interest | But If Nots

  2. Aaron Gallagher says:

    Having a father who taught History and Geography in the American public school system for 40 years we have had many conversations about the state of education in this country. My father has told me numerous times that one of the main reasons he chose to retire instead of continue teaching was that it was becoming increasing apparent to him that the teaching style that he had come to rely on over the past 4 decades was woefully insufficient at getting this new generation of kids to buy into the idea that learning is important and that they should care who Crispus Attucks is, know why December 7 is an important date in US History, and that V=I x R. Instead he was getting a higher and higher dose of complacency with the kids and more disturbingly the parents of these kids. Even though it would be a good scape goat and an easy thing to fall back on he always stops short on completely blaming the parents of these kids saying “Our job as educators is to figure out a way to get these kids to enjoy learning and to want to be better than the generations that came before them and instill a healthy competitive spirit that drives them to continue learning. The fact that a good majority of parents these days (for whatever reason) are for the most part absent from their children’s everyday lives isn’t an excuse for us failing to inspire these kids to be better. It might be an acceptable excuse in the minds of these kids to justify their mediocrity for that reason, but as an educator I would never blame a parent for my inability to make someone at least not loathe the idea that US History might be interesting and important.” I thought that was an interesting way to look at it and it really kind of changed my mind a little on my stance that parenting or lack there of in this country is mostly to blame for the apathy that the kids of this generation take towards learning. Now don’t get me wrong I still think that parenting and how involved a parent is in their child’s education is immensely important to a child’s development educationally. But there are plenty of kids, really really smart kids out there who have absentee parents. I bet if you asked those kids why they succeeded 99% of them would give you the name of a teacher who inspired them along the way. My dad realized that the kids in these new generations needed to be inspired in different ways than the generations that came before and he was too “digitally challenged and tired” to come up with new ideas on how to reach these kids in a better way. So he decided to leave it to the younger teachers to carry on the fight. Maybe my dad was right that the educational system as a whole needs to stop relying on the old methods of teaching and inspiring and come up with new methods that are adapted to more suitably do that for this generation of kids. There are some really good teachers in this country who are doing amazing and progressive things with their curriculums and getting good results. As a country we need to stop fighting the changes that are needed and embrace these innovative ideas because its pretty clear that the old way of doing things isn’t working anymore. Does that mean adopting the educational model being used in Asian countries? Maybe? Maybe not? What I do know is that its probably time we stop being so hard headed and stubborn about educational philosophies and start to think outside the box a little. Thats what made us a great country to begin with if I remember my US History correctly.

  3. Moose says:

    I believe you have a misspelling. It should read “he is the *least* interesting person to come out of Detroit.

  4. bhuvan nijhawan says:

    hello ,
    couldnt help myself but respond to this blog since I too am a parent of 2 lovely girls in India. India has a large population …more than a billion and growing rapidly… quality education for such a large population is therefore at a premium and in some places not even available…so if my daughters intend to go to one of the top business schools (for examples sake..i know not what they would want to excel in when they grow up) ..the competition is so intense that chances of them getting into these schools are almost negligible. At least in the present circumstances.
    With the result that they need to start preparing earlier…also a growing set of middle class(the number would be bigger than the population of america) is becoming more and more aspirational for the best of things from different parts of the world..which further is intensifying the competition to MAKE IT…sometimes it makes me think we are fast becoming americanised at least in the large urban cities like Mumbai etc.
    These circumstances are therefore having a large impact on our parenting and pushing our kids unknowingly or knowingly into cut throat competition..
    Along with these circumstances, Indian culture I think , is very strong at family and family values, with the child taking care of the elders when they grow up and often staying in the same house .This alongwith a very high importance being given to education shapes the thought processes of parents and kids for people here in India where the kid knows and believes that it is his/her responsibility to take care of parents when he /she grows up…

  5. Michael G. says:

    There is nothing wrong with making kids feel better about themselves as a first priority. Without self-esteem kids wont be as motivated, hard working, take risks and make good decisions.

    The problem with comparing Asian parenting to American parenting is that it may be confused for an argument of good parenting vs bad parenting and I don’t think it is. What if the Asian model and the American model of parenting and teaching were both off the mark for differing reasons?

  6. Allyson says:

    Just read the Chua article yesterday and interested to see what you have in your series on this. Friends of ours have a young Korean exchange student for the school year. It has been interesting to hear stories of the conversations they have with the girl’s parents back in Korea relating to their expectations of her time spent here.

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