Monday, September 14, 2009

Speech And Action

J's school principal left us parents a message on the eve of the president's address to school students to let us know the kids would be tuning in to the speech in their classrooms and it would be incorporated into the curriculum over the next couple of days. I thought it was a wonderful speech and if it touched the hearts and minds of some students, it might actually change their lives in a positive way.

Not that this is a barometer for anything but I did have a chance to go out to dinner with a group of folks who have school age children just a couple of days after this speech. The kids in question range from age five to sixteen. I have socialized with groups such as this one many times in the past have noticed that conversation about kids tends to be limited to a few topics - daycare challenges, the last vacation, performance in sports and the funny things kids said or did.

If there was a college bound child the parent may talk about how many campuses they had visited, the long road trips and flights that involved and what they were doing to set them up in their new digs. The field of study would almost be mentioned as an afterthought if at all. You would be hard pressed to remember that these kids actually went to school, were getting an education (or not). The emphasis is so clearly absent that you cannot miss it. Post-speech none of this has changed.

I know several children who are really interested in learning but have completely nonchalant parents. They will gladly take them to Disneyland for vacation but will not drive them down the street to the public library even when the child is craving to read. While it is a great idea to ask children to take responsibility for their education and do their part but it may not go very far if the culture at home does not emphasize the importance of learning and hard-work nearly enough.

There are parents in America who are very involved with their children's education and are making the most of the resources the system has to offer and chipping in where it is lacking. The speech will serve to reinforce the message to the kids of such parents. While that is a good thing, they don't really need the extra reinforcement. The most vulnerable group however is one whose parents just do not value education as much as they do other things. These kids need a helping hand urgently but steering them in the right direction is a far more difficult proposition. It will be interesting to see how much the speech was able to influence them.

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