Beyond Your Child's Classroom
Page 2

Out of the three styles: authoritarian, authoritative and permissive, it is found that children with at least one authoritative parent were able to do much better than those with none. Correct parenting styles are now a statistical fact and cannot continue to be ignored by parents when planning the raising of children. Authoritative parenting often creates students with good school and social skills, teaching them responsibility for their actions. Naturally, since these students feel more responsible for their own actions, the idea of outside influences having too much control over their success is minor. Authoritarian parents tend to create poor social skills but acceptable school skills. Permissive parents create high levels of social skills but negative attitudes toward school and adults. Either one of these last two creates a poor fit for the overall experience of the student in school. Authoritative parenting across all social and economic strata, show a marked improvement in school performance, due to the correct psychological “fit” of the child for success in school.

Parents who also show up at school and make themselves visible tend to “spike” the child’s interest and belief in the overall efficacy of school for their later lives. This not only involves the student, but the teachers and administration take notice of such involvement. This can work on several levels and for diverse reasons, such as either showing school employees the parents’ belief in the system or, additionally, leaving little room for teachers and administrators to hide their problems and mistakes within the crowd of parents and students. But how many parents today can find the time and energy to be so involved in their student’s school? Schools themselves may create their own problems by not making themselves available to parents caught up in the double income working world of today. For many schools themselves, there just isn’t enough time in a day for parents, too many students, and not enough pay. The collapse of the parent/teacher system under such economic and population stress can be seen all across the board as one of the major factors in student failure. Someone has to make the first move, however; and who would be better than parents that support the schools, through private funding or public taxes, taking a responsible stance and shearing down the size of their lives to make room for responsible scholastic participation.

Between the tenth and sixth grades a parent’s influence drops off significantly as the peer group takes over as primary director. By the time a child reaches high school it has been found that peer pressure is more important than any parental influence. This pressure can often happen without the child realizing he is being taken in one direction or another. Labels, such as “brains” or “jocks”, are often used by the student to define the society around them for easier access. The disturbing statistic is that less than 5% of any student body labels themselves or others as being in school for the main purpose of academic achievement. Among American students there is wide spread pressure not to do TOO well. To do well is often communicated covertly as “showing off”. The prevailing norm in high schools across the country is to “fly in under the radar” and graduate, otherwise, the student may find himself left out of the social climate. This pressure is often hard to prevent and, paradoxically, short lived, as the students’ future will always be with him but current social conditions will be short lived.

When considering the influences outside of the home that will mold and shape the child’s future, parents need to consider that neighborhoods and schools will be a primary source of the child’s social contacts. As with any public climate, like minded neighborhoods will have schools that are filled with future friends who also reflect parenting and teaching attitudes that may be beneficial or may be of concern to parents. Let us consider that there is a student who usually is expected to do well in school simply because of their race and assumed scholastic prowess that is placed in a school populated with students from other ethnic households. These households may indeed share attitudes and feelings toward school work that are not synergistic, if so; there will be an overwhelming social pressure for that student to be less productive. Whereas in a school filled with like minded offspring, the student may encounter other pupils who are oriented towards school. As a result, they will create bonds that combine socializing and studies and find themselves successful simply due to association. Whether financially well off or monetarily poor, the students’ parents must consider that it is the parenting styles and social climate of other children’s rearing that will do more than they themselves will ever do for the future of the child reaching the high school years.

The ultimate source of achievement problems begins with how students spend their time out of school. The number of students who hold part time jobs after school has risen to 80% since the 1950’s. It’s no coincidence that this figure runs parallel to the decline of student achievement. National companies who hire teenagers are more concerned about thriving on cheap labor, for which they need not provide any benefits, than they are about the nation’s scholastic future. Complaints about students who can’t even make change without a calculator or computer should give national companies pause for thought about their involvement in creating and maintaining the problem themselves. The antiquated idea of the struggling student who must work to help out the family is out of touch with current statistics. It has been found that the overwhelming majority of students who work, earn money for the trivial things in their lives, such as CD’s and other luxury items. These students may work more than 20 hours a week, severely damaging their own ability to succeed in school while at the same time learning job skills that will not transfer into the working world in any meaningful way beyond the level of the job they have. Working students often cheat more, skip class or perhaps take too many easy classes. Other involvements, such as after school activities, sports and clubs are usually only dabbled in for anywhere from 10-15 hours a week, if that much. Further studies show that socializing outside of school, added on top of socializing already done in school, can be as high as 20 hours a week or more. If all of these influences are added up together, it is painfully obvious that today’s student spends as little as 15% of their overall time on scholastic pursuits. Not coincidentally, Asian students score lowest in all categories of outside school activities. Their success is evidence of the correct social climate, parenting styles and attitudes toward school work that create a smooth road toward achievement. This happens in American schools despite the clamor of the school reform movement. The lesson here is that school success is as much a product of the ways a student lives their lives as it is the school they attend. Far too many poor parenting styles, greedy and careless employers and the quick thrill media come in contact with today’s students and school is just one of a long list of things a child does every day. America should never be surprised at the level of disengagement of its student body due to the fact that school engagement has become a triviality in the national psyche.

Before this writer becomes chided for dwelling on all the negative things that have happened to the American educational experience, let’s take a look at those things that can be done to right the sinking ship.

1) The nation must realize that the problem is symptomatic of a complex network of social and private problems that must be addressed en-masse. School reform and restructure are not enough to solve the problems of the educational system and past attempts at reform have failed.

2) Parents must realize that the priority of childhood is doing well in school. All other influences must be sacrificed to the extent that scholastic achievement is primary in the students mind. It must be driven home in clear and uncensored language on a national level that doing well in school has ultimate benefits for the child’s mental, emotional and physical well being. Parents, too, must step up to the plate and become more physically involved in the rearing of their children if they are going to have them. Adult’s lack of engagement in the lives and scholastic achievement of their own children has become a pervasive health problem in this country that may become one day a major factor in the down fall of America as a whole.

3) Colleges today are too willing to accept any student who has been given a high school diploma regardless of how well they have done in their studies. This has resulted in students taking the low road to their later lives and creating a work force of questionable merit. When one considers that this includes professions such as doctors and lawyers and political leaders, the resultant society, perhaps less than four generations away, may have “Orwellian” overtones. It’s a science fact that advanced societies are the easiest to destroy, for how many among us can build an automobile or create a vaccine? Once these abilities are lost a society must be concerned with re-building the wheel, as it were, and in today’s world climate America can hardly take a break from its global position to heal its own internal wounds. Toughening standards for student advancement is no longer a debatable convenience, but must be enacted for the future of mankind.

4) Remedial classes at higher learning institutions have to be eliminated. The practice of providing schooling for skills that should be plat formed and ready to go to the next level has weakened the overall effect of both a high school and a college diploma. Any students who do not possess the readiness for higher education should be disallowed and sent back to secondary colleges or some alternative until these skills are achieved and provable.

5) All after school activities must be examined. Extracurricular activities involved with the school institution can often be beneficial for the student in limited amounts. Parents need to judge the effects of sports and clubs and such and then limit the child’s involvement in order to get the maximum benefit of education for that child. National records and statistics do not, however; show any need at all for students to work upwards of twenty hours a week on part time jobs. Studies have shown that it is more of a waste of time and an interference with school work that results only in lower performance. If a child must work, the hours a week should be concentrated to the weekend and less than 15 hours per week. Work time numbers above the 15 hours show nationally to be disastrously detrimental to the school experience.

Solving the problems of academic dementia among American students must be studied from the point of view that takes in to account their entire lives and the effects on their production that parents, friends, employers and the schools have on the struggling student. Until these things are accomplished, America’s future lies in the hands of lost generations.

About The Author

Mark M. Boudreaux is Publisher and editor of the weekly newspaper, The L.A. County Weekly Canyon Crier. This legal newspaper is distributed throughout the San Fernando Valley and Studio City in the Area of Los Angeles. Mr. Boudreaux also art directs and consults on the Tolucan Times and Entertainment Today newspapers. A former member of the Alpha Theta Epsilon honor society, he has also worked with the United Press Club of Los Angeles on educational issues and also student advising with Linda Christas online schools.

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