We Say We Care About Education, But Do We Really?

05/03/2016 05:47 pm ET

This Mother’s Day, as I celebrate my mother, one of her most important lessons to me seems to be at the front of my mind: Actions speak louder than words.

 

Another way to put it: People may give lip service to their values, but their actions matter more.

 

So yes, mom, you were right. Ugh. I said it.

 

As a mom, teacher and learning specialist, I try to spend the little bit of flexible time I have learning something new. Recently, I decided to check off a bucket list item and take a real estate class. Upon completion of my class, with my newly minted broker’s license in hand (or in my Gmail inbox, actually), I logged in to my Newswire account.

 

A little background – this newswire service forwards requests from reporters to experts. My account has always been set to forward requests related to education and child development. Reporters and freelance writers covering stories on these topics need information from experts, and I am a learning expert. Now, I logged into my account to add “real estate” to my list of topics.

 

What happened next surprised me.

 

My inbox was inundated with proposed real estate articles.

 

Reporters were looking for experts to share information on ‘Ways To Find A Starter Home’, “Slope Landscaping’ and ‘What Does A Real Estate Attorney Do?’ and dozens of other topics that are apparently on the minds of homeowners.

 

There were 17 real estate story queries for every 1 education request.

 

Again, that ratio is 17 - to - 1, y’all. These reporters are writing these stories, in these proportions, because that is what people want to read about.

 

Am I alone in finding this discouraging? Do we care about real estate 17 times more than education?

 

In many ways, I understand. Everyone loves the idea of “home”, and having invested wisely. Buying and/or improving your home is encouraging, empowering and fun. I’ve been there. I flip through HGTV Magazine in the checkout line. Indulging in an episode or two of Love It Or List It with a glass of wine is a favorite pastime. I get it.

 

But still…17:1?

 

Is education something we say we care about, but really we would rather shop for a fairy garden kit or play with an ap that puts makeup on our pet than learn about? And if so, why?

 

Maybe because, often, education isn’t fun. It can be bureaucratic and boring. And many of us have negative memories tied to our own school experiences. In other words, education isn’t sexy.

 

But maybe there is more to the fact that those of us non-teacher parents don’t invest time in learning about learning. Maybe schools have had a hand in making it that way?

 

An example from my steel-trap of a memory…

 

The summer before I started kindergarten, I begged my parents to teach me to read. My parents had college educations, good jobs and were devout Education-Is-Very-Important-To-Us folks. But they baulked at teaching me to read, afraid they would take a different approach to what I was about to learn in kindergarten, and therefore “mess up” my literacy development.

 

I now have 16 years of experience in education, including early childhood and reading instruction. I know that, unless my parents planned on teaching me the wrong letters and sounds, they could not have messed up my early reading development.

 

But they believed they could. They believed there was one “right” way to do things, and that right way was the school’s jurisdiction alone.

 

I doubt my parents were alone in this belief. Has the education system pushed parents out? Has it claimed the cognitive development of our nation’s youth to the point where parents say “I’ll just let the school do it’s job”?

 

Often, when it comes to our children’s school experience, we feel neither knowledgeable nor empowered.

 

Last weekend, I watched the movie The Big Short, which chronicled the financial crisis of 2008. There is a scene where Ryan Gosling’s (dreamy) voice explains how bankers use complicated language to make financial concepts seem so daunting that only intelligent experts (themselves) can handle these matters. Leave it to us, folks. Trust us.

 

Have we done the same with education? Step aside, parents. Let us handle this. Early reading phonemic awareness skills too much for you? Don’t you worry about it.

 

Two problems with this: 1. It alienates parents, boxing us out of important decisions. 2. When it comes to guaranteeing a thorough, meaningful education for every child, schools are dropping the ball.

 

So how do we fix this?

 

While I don’t have all the answers, I have a few ideas. Parents, let’s start with the following as our guiding assumptions…

 

  1. If you think something is amiss, it probably is.
  2. If you think your child needs to be taught a different way, he probably does.
  3. If your school tells you to wait it out, don’t. Kids usually need intervention in order to “catch up”.
  4. Take time to learn about learning. A couple interesting ways to start, check out Angela Duckworth’s TED Talk “The Key To Success” and Carol Dweck’s book Mindset.

 

Get involved. Don’t let teachers, administrators or anyone in the school system elbow you out of the way. Go to your child’s school. Find out what is being taught and how. You are the general contractor here; as your child’s greatest advocate and asset, you have more ownership than you realize. Let’s put our declarations of “Education is very important to me” into action.

 

 

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