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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Brick Parents: "We Don't Need No Ed-u-ca-tion"

“If a child sees something in a parent that the child aspires to, he or she will copy that parent and be content. If a child feels that a parent is living a life that shows compassion and understanding, patience and love, that child will not have to reach a stage of rebellion against that parent. 

"Why rebel against someone who has listened to you and wants to help you fufill your dreams? A parent who has proven time and again that growth and happiness of his or her children is priority number one does not have to worry about where these children are heading in life. They will be sensitive and productive members of society for as long as they live.”
-Alice Ozma, The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared
What image do children see when they look at their parents? Of course, they see loving providers, unselfish models who work hard to give their families the best life they can afford. And, most children see important dependent relationships with their parents who continually mentor and guide them through every phase of their upbringing. In a perfect world, love would be the foundation upon which all family relationships are built and maintained.

But,unfortunately, many kids do not see one important ingredient in Mom's and Dad's life that fosters their children's important progress and eventual independence. Especially in poor, depressed areas like Appalachia, children should witness their parents' thirst for knowledge. Kids must see, firsthand, that their parents are constantly learning new information vital to their betterment.

Today, too many parents are doing relatively nothing to strengthen their own intellects. As models for their children, these parents do not provide enough positive reinforcement that learning is the most important process for lifelong achievement and eventual happiness.

To me, the quest for information can be an intensely rewarding experience, so I always encouraged students in my classes to find subjects they liked and to "dig to their very roots." I noticed the happy, aggressive learners took pride in their discoveries -- the more they knew, the more they became interested in other, related subjects. For many, an intense craving for information became habitual. Their initiative led to greater self confidence that fed their particular desires for acquiring more and more information and sharing their findings. These students taught me, the teacher, more than I ever would have dreamed.

A relatively new study suggests that the same neurons that process the primitive physical rewards of food and water also signal the more abstract mental rewards of information.

"Ethan Bromberg-Martin and Okihide Hikosaka trained two thirsty rhesus monkeys to choose between two targets on a screen with a flick of their eyes; in return, they randomly received either a large drink or a small one after a few seconds. Their choice of target didn’t affect which drink they received, but it did affect whether they got prior information about the size of their reward. One target brought up another symbol that told them how much water they would get, while the other brought up a random symbol.

"After a few days of training, the monkeys almost always looked at the target that would give them advance intel, even though it never actually affected how much water they were given. They wanted knowledge for its own sake. What’s more, even though the gap between picking a target and sipping some water was very small, the monkeys still wanted to know what was in store for them mere seconds later. To them, ignorance is far from bliss." (Ed Yong,"Why Information Is Its Own Reward...," ScieneBlogs, July 15 2009)

Dopamine neurons (dopamine = pleasurable hormone) are thought to be involved in learning about rewards – by adjusting the connections between other neurons, they “teach” the brain to seek basic rewards like food and water. Bromberg-Martin and Hikosaka think that these neurons also teach the brain to seek out information so that their activity becomes a sort of “common currency” that governs both basic needs and a quest for knowledge.

Now, I know many of you are saying, "Thirst for knowledge? Isn't that what teachers and schools are supposed to be instilling in my children. I don't need any more knowledge. I went to school years ago and already have all the information I need. Besides, junior has a computer and a television."

Reread that last paragraph. Put yourself in the role of your child. Basically, you are instilling the belief in your child that learning stops once outside the schoolhouse door. In other words, children begin to believe that their parents see no reason to continue critical, independent, life-long learning.

This view is tragic. Knowledge is the great equalizer, the only true asset for those who lack other means to structure a good life. Today, more than ever, a thirst for knowledge will lead a child to greater opportunities.

If parents do not show their children their own active quests for information, for improvement, for learning "for learning's sake," they stifle their children's development. And, I am not just speaking of taking an interest during children's grade school years, but just as important (probably more important considering the pressures and stresses of teens), they must engage in developing the thirst during children's high school years and beyond.

Parents learning? What a radical idea for many. But that is exactly what I mean. Parents must diminish negative behaviors that encourage laziness, disengagement from the learning process, and a self-chosen contempt for acquiring intelligence. Instead, they must sacrifice unproductive free time to improve their own stations in life. Their kids will see this, digest its importance, and follow their lead.

Numerous studies support the fact that the majority of children consider their parents to
be their most important role model. In the American Bible Society survey, 67.7% of teens aged
12-18 believed parents are the most important role models in today’s society. More than 1,100
12-18 year olds participated in an eight-question survey conducted by Weekly Reader Research
on behalf of the American Bible Society. 

According to a research study
by Harvard Researcher Ronald Ferguson,
"Nearly half of a child's achievement in school
can be accounted for by factors outside the school,
including parent support."

Consequently, the most important support
any child can receive comes from the parents.

This support ranges from being responsible for making sure that the child arrives at school well-rested, well-fed, and ready to learn, to setting high expectations for their child. The following are suggestions of how parents can support their child's education:

* Attendance: Good school attendance is important to academic achievement. When students are absent from school they miss vital instruction. Parents have control over their child's attendance and this includes arriving on time to school, and not taking students out in the middle of the school day.

* Attitude: Parents need to display a positive attitude toward school in general. If parents have a positive attitude, the child will also have that positive attitude toward school. Parents must be careful in how they address school concerns in front of their child. If they display a negative attitude toward school, their child may adopt that as his/her own attitude toward school.

* Priority: Education must be given a top priority for it to come out on top. Therefore, parents must make education their first priority, above all other after school activities.

* Support: Children need their parent's help. When a child needs help on homework or other special projects, it is their parents that they turn to. Parents need to offer support and help their children. They may even need to find help outside of the home, a tutor, for example.

* Role Model: The parent needs to be a positive role model for the child in helping to shape the child's opinions and attitudes about learning.

* Get Involved: Research reveals that high self-esteem and student achievement are closely related to positive parental involvement in school. When parents get involved at school it can be a motivating factor to the child. It tells the child that the parents think that school is important.

* Communication: Parents need to keep in touch with their child's school and have a positive relationship with the teacher.

My Take

NOTHING could make a bigger difference in the problems faced by youth in Scioto County than kids seeing a parent involved in education. This does not mean merely attending ball games or helping with a school activity or two. Children need to see parents who are actively bettering themselves. This, I am sure, will have the biggest impact on their children's positive development.

Some tough kids from the inner city get out of their undesirable environments by developing their athletic skills and later employing them in professional sports careers. This accomplishment is a rarity.The chances of becoming a professional athlete is about 24,550 to 1—so you have a better chance of getting struck by lightning, marrying a millionaire or writing a New York Times bestseller. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 9,380 professional athletes you have a .00565% chance of becoming a professional athlete.

On a personal note, I spent 34 years as a student and a teacher at Valley High School in Lucasville. To my knowledge, one person, Gene Tenace, became a prominent professional athlete. Just rounding figures to 100 graduates a year would make the odds 3,400 to 1 during my tenure alone.

Developing a keen mind and a thirst for knowledge will help insure much better odds for finding a good job and a better life than betting your future on brawn. Parents, you must quit depending upon schools to take 100% of the responsibility for educating your children. If you don't believe in lifelong learning and SHOW IT, your children will likely hate school, refuse to do their homework, neglect their studies, and learn to pattern themselves after you, their role models with stagnant, semi-developed brains.

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