Boreal Chickadee (alpaca15) wrote in poverty_mag,
Boreal Chickadee

Parents, Kids, and Education

It's a fact that you can't buy intelligence. It's just not possible. You can drug your hyperactive kid so they'll sit still in class and you can shell out thousands of dollars for private tutors so that your kid can spend even more time sitting on their ass after school instead of running around outside in the fresh air like children are supposed to. But you just can't pay anyone any amount of money to put brains in your kid's head.

Some parents just don't want to believe this, though. They look at their lives and they think--we pay someone to clean our massive homes, we pay someone to cook for us, we pay someone to walk our dogs, why can't we pay someone to guarantee that our kids will get into Harvard and Yale? There is no one who can guarantee that. There are, however, plenty of people out there willing to try and fill this frantic, insatiable desire in the hearts of affluent parents.

I'm a college instructor. My job relates to my rant because of an experience I had a few weeks ago. One of my students-- not a particularly outstanding student, but someone who generally does all of their work and is pretty decent to their classmates--told me that their parents have hired a "consultant" to plan this student's break into a four-year college. I asked the student what, exactly, this "consultant" did. The student told me that the consultant had "a really big binder" about the student. I have no idea what this binder included, and apparently the student didn't, either.

I'm baffled. I could have told this kid what they needed to do to improve their chances of getting into the four-year college of their choice--work harder. Do more than the minimum. Make yourself stand out in class with intriguing questions and thoughtful observations. Write essays that actually have thesis statements. I would have given this advice for free! I imagine, however, that the parents involved wouldn't have been comfortable with free advice. You get what you pay for, right? If it's free, then how good can it be?

That's why rich people send their kids to private school, correct?

Well, here's a little secret: not only do I teach at a community college, I also teach at a private university. And guess what? I teach the private school students the same stuff I teach the community college kids! I even use the same lesson plans! Shocking, isn't it?

You don't have to look very far these days to find an SAT prep center or tutoring center stuffed in the shopping complexes of Northern Virginia, a kind of fast-food approach to education. These places charge a small fortune. When a parent brings their kid in, the kid first endures a diagnostic test--with a fee, of course. After the testing comes the actually education plan, with a schedule of payment. When I moved to the DC suburbs two years ago, I applied for a job at one of these chain education centers. While waiting for my interview, a young girl of about the age of 8 or 9 approached me and we started chatting. She was a pretty bubbly and enthusiastic kid. I asked her how often she came to the education center and what she did there. She told me that she visited the center after school about three times a week. Her parents made her go there because she "wasn't doing well in school." She told me that she was often bored at the center, but her grades had improved, so it was probably worth it. She also told me that she didn't do any of her actual homework during her time at the center. She did her homework at night, after spending hours at school and then hours more at the center.

I feel incredibly sorry for this poor kid. She's forced to sit in a chair all day long, staring at paper. She is already under pressure to "improve her grades." She's so young, but already she's feeling the heat of competition and being told that this should be her priority above all else. High grades in school promise a high salary when she's out of college. The price is her lack of a life. She's being programmed to sit still and do as she's told--the key to middle class and affluent success, right?

I tell my students they have to work hard on their classwork, but they have to relax and play, too. If you're constantly stressed out then you're stifling your creativity. This applies to all subjects--English, math, science, Latin American revolutionary history. This is my advice: work hard and play hard and don't take it all so seriously.

I do realize, though, that my advice is free and paying me some money will probably make it all seem a lot more valid to you. If that's the case, go ahead and leave a credit card number in the comments so that I may charge you accordingly.
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