Our culture is doing our children a disservice by pretending that youngsters can reach their goals by just wanting something and demanding it over and over again.
"I am going to be a Hollywood star." "When I grow up I'll marry a millionaire, have a mansion with servants, become a professional gamer, NFL player or a famous rapper." The list of wannabee upscale lifestyles or occupations might vary with time, although the lack of knowing the necessary steps to achieve the desired goals remains minimal.
In our culture, adults are not supposed to deflate the child's dreams or self esteem even when they are obviously out of touch with reality. We should placate the child by playing along with him. It is supposed to be cruel when an authority figure presents legitimate criticism as it will end the childish belief they are always right. Supposedly this accurate information will harm or shatter their self-esteem and dreams. Our fragile children are supposed to be blissfully ignorant of the hard realities of life. In other words, they should be allowed to be delusional.
The same sentiments exist with most parents in dealing with their child's education. They want school to be a more pleasurable experience then they had as a child. Learning should be enjoyable and fun at all times. According to them, children today are brighter than ever before and should be sheltered from any anxiety caused by high performance expectations.
Learning should not be stressful; it should be effortless for today's child. It is the teacher's job to present stimulating and exciting lessons day after day that the child would easily absorb. We have forced teachers into being stars of the classroom and the students the audience to be entertained. This process does not produce an independent, self-reliant learner, but rather a self absorbed, handicapped one.
Parents are aware of the assorted facts the children know from watching television shows or searching the Internet when they are interested in the subject. This is proof that their precious child is brilliant. Modern parents think any teacher worth her salt should make even the most mundane lessons interesting to keep the student learning.
It is no wonder in our instant gratification society that junior and senior high school students should feel the responsibility for their education resides solely in the teacher's efforts and not with them. They have been allowed by the parents to be passive learners throughout their lives. Children should not be expected to do anything in which they have little interest. It is always the teacher's fault.
An energetic and personable teacher cannot compensate for an unmotivated student with poor academic fundamentals. "Teach me teach" sums up the attitude of the modern student. It is a reasonable conclusion given the modern parent's opinions of the teacher's role. Teachers are supposed to be in charge of the child's learning without considering the effort and actual performance level of the child. The child's laziness, excuses or obnoxious behavior too often is attributed to an uninspiring and ineffective teacher not the student's attitude and actions. It is the teacher's fault.
As long as a teacher appeases the parent with inflated grades, the teacher is off the hook for not "being interesting." Parents do brag about their child being on the honor role no matter how pathetic the actual skill level. Actual mastery of the subject matter is unimportant as compared to their happiness. Receiving high grades, for doing little to earn them, is a win-win situation for students, parents and teachers. Parents are delighted by the overinflated report. Students are overjoyed by the parental rewards while teachers and administrators are off the hook from both.
This public relations gimmick has a major flaw. The flaw is the increased competition when these students enter college where almost a third of them are required to take remedial courses before earning any college credit. This is educational fraud.
Grade integrity in the past was a reality check for students and their parents. The actual grade earned taught the student that the more effort put into something the better the result. This reality motivated students to be more conscientious in their studies.
Learning in school is similar to learning to swim. A person has to want to swim to learn how to do it. An instructor can encourage and help the individual overcome unreasonable fears but ultimately the person has to have sufficient desire to work at it until he succeeds. A child learning to ride a bike has to suffer the bruises of falling until he learns to stabilize it and ride on his own. A student has to develop basic skills, frustration tolerance and self-discipline to internalize knowledge to become an excellent student.
Successful students have pride of ownership in their studies. They are more focused on learning than on their grades. Once a student takes ownership of his education, then and only then can he become a lifelong learner and outstanding citizen.
Domenick Maglio, PhD. is a columnist carried by various newspapers, an author of several books and owner/director of Wider Horizons School, a college prep program. You can visit Dr. Maglio at www.drmaglio.blogspot.com.