Point of View

Where should our education dollars go? Into making better parents

July 2, 2014 

This week, I enjoyed reading about the successes of local students in various science fairs. What struck me, as always, was the high number of Asian students who excelled while the Anglo names were fewer despite being a greater percentage of our population. Does this tell us something?

What it tells me, a WASP educated in Raleigh public schools in the quiet ’50s and turbulent ’60s and driven by education-obsessed parents (plus Mrs. Phyllis Peacock at Broughton High School in the 12th grade), is that despite the billions our state and local governments throw at education, the key to student achievement lies in the structure and philosophy of the children’s families.

Why do so many Asians, Indians and Middle Easterners do so well in our schools, but Caucasians, African-Americans and Latinos seem to lag behind? Could it simply be the environment in which children are reared, the dynamics of families striving to be well-read, English-speaking, cultured and educated in order to succeed in life and improve their circumstances? I suspect so. And you don’t have to live in upscale Cary to find those families.

This is an era in which children desire to instantly have every luxury and tech device, and parents strive to give it all to them to “enrich” their self-esteem and “happiness.” But these same indulgent parents avoid quality interaction with their children in education-enhancing activities because they are too busy, consumed by their own myopic, self-centered lives and eagerly awaiting the next silly Dr. Oz “self-improvement” program, Sexy Schoolgirl 5-K or New Age therapy class.

It does not cost government billions of dollars for families to teach children to work, earn their own spending money, put down smart phones, hit the books, labs, museums and libraries and visit our many superb performing arts venues. Maybe skipping Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus or “Terminators” and taking children to a symphony, theater, ballet or special museum exhibit would be more beneficial.

Does letting children play soccer seven days a week really prepare them for higher education and the increasingly competitive job world or does it merely satisfy a parent’s unsatiated sports envy and consume time otherwise “wasted” with the teenagers?

Instead of blowing more billions of taxpayer money to no avail, our politicians, educators and parents should concentrate on the family itself. That’s the environment in which children absorb their morals, work ethic and life meaning and learn the value of an education. What the adults who rear them believe is ultimately important.

Take a lesson from families, rich or poor, who have liberally educated, successful, inquisitive children in their homes. It’s called good parenting, and no multibillion-dollar government education program can trump that.

John P. Simpson is an attorney in Jacksonville.

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