Mpaza S. Kapembwa of DeKalb is a 2011 Cross Keys High School graduate who now attends Williams College.
He is a Gates Millennium Scholar, Coca Cola Scholar and Dell Scholar. This is the second piece he has written for the Get Schooled blog
By Mpaza S. Kapembwa
Our method of fixing problems in education today seems to be laying all the blame on our teachers. We have grown comfortable not being responsible. At the same time, we want all of the benefits of shared responsibility without sharing in the burden. We are quick to frown when someone wakes us up from a restful sleep. A teacher reminding us of our own responsibility is akin to the alarm going off in the wee hours of the morning. Parents see their dreams not being realized in their children and they lash out at the dream snatcher — the teacher.
When President Obama visited Seoul in 2009, he asked President Lee Myung-bak about his biggest challenge in education. Myung-bak said he wished parents didn’t care so much about their children’s success. South Korea’s students have outperformed the rest of the world for most of the last decade. It shouldn’t come as a surprise being that their main problem is “over commitment” by parents to their children’s education.
In 2011, Amy Chua published her best-selling book “The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” which focused on the child-rearing practices of Chinese mothers. The book recounts her strict, perhaps extreme, method of raising her children: no play dates, piano practice for hours each day, threatening to donate their toys if they rebelled. Such an attitude toward cultivating success stands in stark contrast to the most visible aspects of American education.
While Ms. Chua’s methods might have been extreme, it is worth considering that American education in general needs to be a little more like a Tiger Mother. Our system values self-esteem, happiness, friendship, and feeling good above true knowledge, wisdom and understanding.
Calling for students to be more responsible for their education and for parents to cease blaming teachers won’t work with politicians, policymakers, struggling students and the general public. All of these groups believe they have something to lose if they accept this premise. Struggling students are allowed to advance in our system of leaving no child behind — success is more important to the grown-ups than to the child. The general public will gladly direct the blame to teachers to avoid looking in the mirror.
Education only works when there is a certain level of synergy between the community/home students, and educators. Working together, they form a very powerful triangle. Cut one corner and it collapses. We are trying to form this triangle but only focusing on our educators. Our “solutions” are designed according to an emotional convenience. It is so much easier to work on the teacher. Working on the student causes feelings of discomfort and reflects badly on parents. Yet it can’t be denied that the comforts of the blame game are wearing thin as our students are being put at a disadvantage.
One of my high school teachers told me that dodge ball was removed from schools because some kids did not have the agility to outmaneuver the ball. Our academic policy views have similar but unintended results. I fear we may be expelling learning from our schools simply because it is not pain-free for all participants.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog