Friday, October 30, 2009

A Mother's Influence

My mother asked me yesterday why I hadn't done my homework.  Actually she asked why I hadn't written a blog in over a week.  I had hopes of being able to post every day, but the travel has been  intense lately.  My last blog from Kentucky was followed by a trip to Washington, DC which in turn was followed by a trip to Albion, NY.  The trip to Washington was for a national commission sponsored by the CCSSO called EdSteps.  We are studying Creativity in schools and how best to foster it in young people. Still in the early days, it is an incredibly exciting experience full of practical promise for improving education.  More on that in future blogs.

Note that my mother prompted me yesterday and here is my blog today.  It brings up a critical, and at times controversial, issue in education: the role of parents.  Some say schools should assume that parents are not going to be in the picture and if they are it is a bonus.  Others say schools must work hard to communicate with parents and get them involved as much as possible if they want students to be successful.  The issue of parental involvement is tangled up with class, race, and economic issues.  I see this in the schools I visit across the country from Somerville, MA to Perry County, AL to Albion, NY.

I am currently reading the book Outliers and the influence on future success attributed to parents along class lines is enormous. Drawing on the work of sociologist, Annette Lareau, Gladwell's findings point to the need for schools to learn students' talents and skills and cultivate them in a way that supports their emerging dreams and goals. Such an agenda would level the playing field, as Lareau's research shows that this is what middle and upper class parents do for their children.  Additionally, schools must encourage students to voice their opinions and ideas, another finding about the difference between family's that have and those who have not.  There is a great affinity between these ideas and Aspirations work.  While schools may never be able to stand in for the profound affect of parents in their children's lives, they can do everything they can to help students dream and set goals for the future while inspiring them in the present to reach those goals--whether those goals are long-term, as with a career, or short-term, as when being inspired to do your homework.  Thanks, Mom.

1 comment:

Marty Foley said...

Loved Outliers, and the chapter you cited was especially interesting. Great writer.