The Parenting Coach: Warning—Radical Thinking on Re-evaluating Our Education System

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gilabrown110BY GILA BROWN, M.A.

Last year, CNN reported a story about college students outsourcing their homework. Apparently, there are many online companies that, for the right price will, provide a student with a unique essay or term paper on any subject. CNN reported the story with outrage. How dare students try to cheat. We’ve created a school system and we expect our kids to live up to the expectations set forth, with integrity.

I submit that the problem lies not with the students, but with the system. A student who is truly interested in a subject, motivated to investigate it further and driven to excel at it, is not going to outsource their assignments. Under those circumstances, work doesn’t feel like work. We’ve all been there. We’ve all experienced that one project, that one book, that one subject or that one instrument that kept us up all night long. We couldn’t tear ourselves away from it. We just couldn’t get enough. However, when requirements are set up for students to study something that does not interest them in the least, they are forced to do one of two things. Either they comply and conform in order to earn our approval or they do the bare minimum in order to skate by. In some cases, that might include outsourcing term papers to Pakistan. However, regardless of which option a child chooses, one thing is for sure. The love of learning is cast aside.

By evaluating everything our children do in school with a grade, we give them the impression that the score is more important than the learning. In doing so, we also teach that learning in and of itself is not all that valuable. Unless there is an A+ or a gold star at the top of the page, whatever learning occurred in the process is insufficient.

It is understandable that we, as a society, have gotten sucked into believing that assessment and accountability can only come in the form of measurable, comparable scores. However, what if that weren’t the case.

The consequence of this thinking is that we teach our kids that learning is difficult, and that work is not fun. We expect education to be a one-size-fits-all system. The truth is that anything that fits everyone isn’t going to fit anyone very well.

How many of us can say that our kids truly love learning? Why is that? Consider the innate curiosity of a three, four or five year old. At that age, they love exploring. They love learning how things work. They love asking questions. So, when and why does that change?

This year, do your kids a favor. Play down the grades. Focus on teaching them a love of exploration. The best way to do this is to model it yourself. What inspires you to want to learn more? Challenge yourself to try something new. Do a bit of research. Pick up a new instrument. Take up a new hobby. Let’s make sure to teach our kids that learning is about deepening our understanding of the world. It’s not about gold stars.

© Gila Brown, 2009

Gila Brown, M.A. is a Child Development Expert and Parent Coach, with over 10 years of teaching experience. She specializes in parenting school-age children with grace, using principles of attachment parenting, positive discipline and effective communication. Visit to sign up for a free newsletter.

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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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