By Mutryce A. Williams
Navigating "Island" Parenting is a submission of quotes, tips and parenting advice that I have gathered over the years as a source of inspiration and as tools to deal with the daily challenges of parenting. This week’s edition focuses on education. The hope is that this submission would cause you to reflect on your own parenting skills, and make the journey of parenting a bit easier or brighter, even if it is for one person.
What Is Education?
"The home is the principle learning environment for the child and parents are the primary educators." Thomas Armstrong
A year away from kindergarten so we have begun “shopping” and “interviewing” for schools, we sat across from one principal who actually asked if he sounded like a “snakes oil man” or “an old used car salesman.” I suppose he was trying the read the expression on my face. His school came highly recommended. I sat and I listened as he “wheeled and dealed,” trying his best to sell his school to us, asking us not to look at the “sticker price,” and telling us that there was no better investment than in our son’s education. He pulled out the spreadsheet which displayed top colleges, and guaranteed that once our son puts in the work that he would be guaranteed acceptance into any college of his choice, never mind that as I sat there, my thoughts were, “Cheese and bread, sir, he is only starting kindergarten!”
Every parent wants their child or children to get the best education; however, I walked away from that meeting deeply perturbed. Don’t get me wrong, it is not that I don’t deem education as an investment, or important but rather I looked at the end. I sat that evening and I went into deep thought. I not only questioned what education was, but I questioned the end. My thoughts were, “My son gets a “quality” education goes on to the college of his choice and then what…” Who will this education benefit? Will this education make him a better person, and when I say a better person, I am not referring to self aggrandizement but rather someone who wants to make a real difference in the lives of others? How will this education assist him in achieving this? Will this education be just about having numerous plaques on the wall, a nice car, posh house, the corner office, or a big fancy title or will this education be about rolling up his sleeves or getting down on his knees to assist in lifting others up? These are the thoughts that ran through my mind that evening. I suppose rather than seeing the statistics I might have preferred to hear stories of the alumni of that school who went on to make a difference in the lives of others and it didn’t have to be anything magnanimous.
Prior to that evening I hadn’t given much thought to the issue of my sons’ education. Like every parent I do want them to get what is considered a “good education.” Over the years a friend or two might have made a comment about who or what they thought my sons would be or even asked who I wanted them to be, and my response was and still is, “good human beings, a respecter of all human beings in particular gentlemen who hold women in the highest regard.” I think that too much emphasis is placed on academics or the “end” which is getting our child or children into college so that they can become a doctor, lawyer, or choose what some may consider a noble or worthy profession, but how often as parents have we asked, the question “What then…” Is this enough for us? Is this the end that we want for our children? Is this a real education?
I also think that as parents we fail to distinguish a “formal education” from an “informal education.” We tend to put more importance and emphasis on the “formal” aspects of things, and not give real consideration or value to the “informal education.” Our children’s noses ought always to be in the books. They are only acknowledged or praised for academic prowess, but other accomplishments are deemed insignificant. Informal education builds real character or self-worth. It helps our children to use the formal education in order to make a real difference in this world.
I also think that as parents we leave the education of our children up to the schools, or their teachers, and this shouldn’t be the case. We ought to be our children’s first educators. They will be going to school to learn the “three R’s” as they have been referred to but they should learn about life, and be molded into good noble human beings at home. This isn’t always the case and God bless the good hearts and souls of the teachers who go above and beyond the call of duty to do this, but in actuality a child’s education begins and ends at home.
We have all heard the sayings, “Education is the key to success!” I do not dispute this, however education should be seen as all encompassing not just as an academic endeavour geared for self-aggrandizement but rather a key that builds character, assists in making meaningful change, and key that assists in uplifting others.
A Lesson in Manners
A few days ago at the store I allowed my sons to assist in the purchase. My three-year-old son handed the cashier the money and she gave him his treat. He looked up at her and said thank you, however he refused to move, even after she had given him the treat. He repeated the words thank you several times and even added an “I appreciate it.” My attempts at beckoning him proved futile, as he just looked up at her and repeated the same words. It was obvious now that he was growing agitated. The cashier and I seemed perplexed. As I tried once more to beckon him, and asked him what the matter was, my four year old son said, “Mommy, the lady did not say you are welcome.” The cashier smiled and told him that he was welcome. He returned the smile and told her to have a nice day.
Quotes on Education
Do not indoctrinate your children. Teach them how to think for themselves, how to evaluate evidence, and how to disagree with you.” Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion
“I want my children to understand the world, but not just because the world is fascinating and the human mind is curious. I want them to understand it so that they will be positioned to make it a better place.” Howard Gardner
“If the traditional Rs (reading, writing, and arithmetic) are the basics that we want our children to master academically, then reverence, respect, and responsibility are the three Rs that our children need to master for the sake of their souls and the health of the world.” Unknown
"I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” Mark Twain
"More often than not, children are unevenly gifted, often being especially gifted in one area. It's not uncommon to find them quite gifted in one area, but average or learning disabled in another. "Ellen Winner
"Avoid compulsion and let early education be a manner of amusement. Young children learn by games; compulsory education cannot remain in the soul." Plato
Mutryce A. Williams is a native St Kitts and Nevis whose writings embrace and mirror the West Indian life. She holds a Masters of Politics degree and is a doctoral candidate pursuing studies in Public Policy Administration with a double concentration in Terrorism, Mediation and Peace, and Homeland Security Policy and Coordination. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org