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Tuesday, April 05, 2005 

It's 2005. Do You Know If Your Kids Are Educated?

The success or failure of an individual person or an entire country has often been said to depend upon the quality of education its citizens receive. This is why many parents believe that their children must go to school, perform the best they can while there so they can graduate from high school and then choose from a plethora of uinversities and colleges. Once they've graduated from those institutions with their degrees, they can expect better jobs with higher salaries translating into a higher standard of living for them.

On paper, this scheme looks like a solid plan but in most societies, those extra little letters at the end of your name don't often equate to financial freedom and success anymore. Why?

I don't pretend to have all the answers to this question but I do believe some common sense solutions could go a long way towards ensuring a better education for our children.

Education is too important to be left solely to the educators.--Francis Keppel
Today, at least in the developed countries, not many people can complain of an illiterate population but they are complaining about the quality of education their children receive. It is my belief that parents are part of the problem. We hand over our children to schools and believe that is only up to the governments and teachers to educate our children. We have a direct responsibility to educate our own children. Just because I legally must send my child to school (in Greece, it's against the law to home school) doesn't mean I have to leave his entire education to a stranger in a government office. I can also teach him what I believe is important or what is not covered in the school curriculum. Even the best of teachers can't devote all of his attention to my son nor will he or she ever have as much interest in educating my son as I will.

Parents can't complain about a child's poor grades or performance in school if they don't even know the name of the teacher or in which classroom of a school their child attends. If a child doesn't believe his parents don't care about his performance in school, then chances are, he won't care either. Know your children's teachers. Know the curriculum your child is studying. It's just not enough to say a child is performing badly in school because he brings home poor marks therefore, the school has failed him.

It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.--Albert Einstein
In a public school system, all children are basically taught the same curriculum. So if your child has a natural inclination towards art or music, that inclination more or less stifled so that they can learn from a broad variety of subjects which may not be of any interest to them resulting in poor performance in those subjects or worse, complete withdrawal from public education altogether. I'm not saying that your child should only learn about what interests him but to recognize what DOES interest him and find a way to nurture that inclination for a particular field of study but at the same time ensure he gets a general knowledge on other subjects which don't. Most people have a higher probability to succeed in areas which interest them.

In large states public education will always be mediocre, for the same reason that in large kitchens the cooking is usually bad.--Friedrich Nietzsche
Most people think that the only way to educate children is to put them in an education factory...a school. Children can and have learned many things through a public school system but it's not the only system. It's one thing to look at a picture of a flower and have a textbook explain photosynthesis and quite another to grow a garden of flowers yourself. Everyday life is full of opportunities to educate children and we should capitalise on that fact. The next time we go grocery shopping, take the time to explain to a child why you buy meat, vegetables, fruit and bread and not just ice cream. When you take your pet to the vet for a checkup, let the child ask questions about his pet's health. If you have to change the battery in your car, allow your child to watch and from his questions, you just might be able to explain to him a brief synopsis of how a car actually works. When my son became addicted to the movie "Pirates of the Caribbean", it was a great opportunity for me to teach him about 400 years of naval history in about 3 hours by using the internet coupled with my own knowledge of the period. He was enthralled. Just answering a child's questions is often a great way to teach him.

Apply yourself. Get all the education you can, but then, by God, do something. Don't just stand there, make it happen.--Lee Iacocca
An education alone doesn't guarantee success in life. Once you believe you've gotten a solid education, don't expect people to come knocking at your door with a job, research grant or a commendation on a silver platter. You've got to actually do something with it. Children must learn from an early age that education alone is not the key to success. Education provides a foundation on which to build success. Personal determination and ambition must be factored into the equation before the sum total can equate to your definition of success...whether it's financial security, creative brilliance, innovative excellence or a decent human being.

Excellent, but I think you have a double negative in there. I am one to talk, am I not?

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