Sunday, December 19, 2010

Work Not Pleasure

For the first time this year, J had to study for a test and the we discovered she had no idea how to study for one. This came as a revelation to me and my first instinct was to panic. DB was a little bemused by the whole situation and asked the obvious "How would you expect her to know what to do when you've never showed her how ?" By the time I was J's age, I was veteran test taker. In India a nine year old does not remember a time when they did not take tests. I must have been taught in my time too but was so young that I have no recollection of it - I thought that test taking is instinctive not much different from breathing. We are now working with J, teaching her some basic skills she will need to succeed as a student.
Reading this article about how the educational crisis in America is a moral and not a monetary one, struck a deep chord in the context of my recent challenges. J's complete unpreparedness for test taking in fourth grade is a telling example of schools making the "mildest demands" on students.
We have gone from a culture where real demands were made on students at home and in school to one where homes and schools make only the mildest demands on children. Instead adults have become eager providers of their children’s natural, but endless, appetite for pleasure. 
The point is not that kids are rotten and teachers are lazy and parents are idiots. Rather, that we have created the wrong child-raising culture and the results are clearly confirming that.  
For parents who are trying to correct course at home, the task is a daunting one. The social expectation of us is to be providers of entertainment and pleasure to the kids.When we do very little of that and try to fill the gaping voids in their education instead, our efforts are met with a lot of resistance. J may appreciate my efforts in later life, but right now Mommy is a mostly an insufferable nag, a demanding task master and just does not know how to have fun. Unfortunately for me, most of my peers are exceptionally good at being entertainers to their kids. Sadly for J, she will grow up feeling she did not have nearly as much fun as most other kids she knows.

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