Friday, June 24, 2011

What I Don't Want for my Boys

One of things I do not want, most of all, is to turn out snobs. Sounds reasonable, doesn't it? But how many people who say that would also give a limb and a kidney to send their child to an Ivy or similarly prestigious school? This is why I've said before and will say again: what your kids learn in class is only one of the many things you should think about when picking a school - be it college, elementary school, high school - whatever.

Because really, do you want them to end up like this one day?

"My education taught me to believe that people who didn’t go to an Ivy League or equivalent school weren’t worth talking to, regardless of their class. I was given the unmistakable message that such people were beneath me. We were “the best and the brightest,” as these places love to say, and everyone else was, well, something else: less good, less bright. I learned to give that little nod of understanding, that slightly sympathetic “Oh,” when people told me they went to a less prestigious college. (If I’d gone to Harvard, I would have learned to say “in Boston” when I was asked where I went to school—the Cambridge version of noblesse oblige.) I never learned that there are smart people who don’t go to elite colleges, often precisely for reasons of class. I never learned that there are smart people who don’t go to college at all." [emphasis added]

That right there, folks, is the description on an idiot. A very educated one, but an idiot all the same. No. Thank. You.


Anonymous said...

Good reasoning, Tari. At the same time, do not discount your and your husband's influence on your children. The passion in your words depicts a belief that the influence of the school culture is isolated from your parenting and is the only factor in forming a child's social opinions. I don't agree if that is the case.

On the opposite side of extreme is the premise that every student in public or non-elite educational settings is equal in ability and only needs the 'uniform' education to come up in society.

I have striven to teach our children that most people function (academically or in a job) to the best of their ability. And that ability is variable and reliably variable according to the bell curve. I've taught them to accept that some people cannot/do not think like they do.

Insofar as a person 'learning' to think of themselves as 'elite', or not - think humility is learned through life experience (according to God's plan) through humiliation. Failure. The message from others (peers or parents or bosses or persons in power over one) that one has not met the threshold of success, made the grade, honored the mission, proved honor.

So much more complex than which school one attends. I think. Thanks for the thought-provoking post. Barbara

Tari said...

Barbara, I don't discount our influence, and the boys do take a lot of cues from us. On the other hand, I know how destructive it can be for parents and/or educators to constantly tell children (especially young ones) how "smart" they are. It takes away not just the desire to look outside "your kind of people" for friends, but it also wreaks havoc with the confidence you have in your ability to do new and completely different things. I want the boys to think they are just as capable of physics AND plumbing (because with hard work and concentration they can learn to do just about anything), and to see the great value in both.

So even though the message they get from us is "you are capable, you can work hard" and "respect everyone, especially those who add value that you can't" I also know I'm swimming against a tide of people who find it easier to praise my boys for "being smart", which is as silly as praising them for being tall - and should never, ever be what they base any judgement of themselves on, good or bad.

Thanks as always for your awesome comments.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your awesome blog, Tari. I enjoy a dialogue like this. I am happy we agree on the influence of parents on their children. I also agree with you that a portion of American children are given a uniform message of spec-I-al-ity from both parents and schools, often coupled with a not-so-benign neglect.

Praising children for "being smart", which is as silly as praising them for being tall" tells me we agree on another principle - innate potential for intelligence varies across the population.