School is the answer…. Right? I mean, that is what everyone tells us. If your life is falling apart, go back to school. If you’re confused, go back to school and get a degree. That’s the only goal. Get that piece of paper. I want to look at this from two different perspectives. From the dad himself considering school or already in school and also how I feel it relates to my kids going to school and future plans for them. School has a purpose, but it’s not the silver bullet everyone thinks it is. Let’s start with grade schools (K-12).
I live in Saint Augustine, Florida and went to Gamble Roger Middle School and St. Augustine High School. Our county has long been the #1 school district in Florida. We are geniuses. Yet, I meet some of these kids and wonder what they have actually learned. Better yet, I graduated from these schools and rarely even attended class I was quite surprised how easy it was to get away with. My buddy Joe and I were rare spectacles inside a classroom. Let’s throw a little perspective on this. We are #1 in Florida depending on what research you use. Florida is in the bottom half of the united states ranking and the United States is very poorly ranked in the world of education. So tell me how impressed you are with the education your kid is receiving….
Obviously, any school is better than no school, but I’m not impressed by rankings, I am impressed by teachers. Teachers who take a real interest in pushing each child to their limit and beyond are rare. If you, dad, want to see your child truly learn and succeed educationally—-home life is important. Parental involvement is important. The more involved you and mom are, the better off your kid is. If you are a parent that is expecting the school system to raise your kids, teach them, and guide them you’re an idiot. You are an absolute fool. You’re also handicapping your kid because you’re lazy. Get involved. If you can send your kid to a top-notch private school, that’s great. That usually means smaller class sizes so the teacher can groom each kid a little better. But private schools have all the same problems as public schools. Don’t be fooled. You need to be just as on top of those kids in private school. When I was in school we always befriended the private school kids. They had way more cash for beer. Their parents, under the impression their private school kid was an angel, often left their home unattended. Those private school kids had great parties. Private schools had the same drug issues public schools did, they were just pricier drugs. The kids were just as interested with sleeping with each other. They have just as much drama and issues, and if anything, they had more opportunity to do stupid things because they had access to empty houses, nice cars, and cash. Don’t be fooled. Your big check for tuition does not replace the need for dad and mom to be involved. If you don’t want to be involved then, by all means, let them coast, get pushed through grades, and graduate knowing just enough to not really know anything.
The way schools are set up, they have to handle a massive amount of students. They have accelerated and remedial programs, but ultimately districts are interested in sticking as many bodies in classes and focusing on the state tests that measure the school. With rare exception, the goal is not to achieve individual greatness out of each kid.
Sure, the occasional teacher takes an interest, but the school district doesn’t care about your Kid. They care about their overall grade and measurements. YOU care about YOUR kid.
Let me insert here and reiterate. The most important variable is Mom and Dads involvement. If your school is good or bad. Private or public. Virtual or Home. Parents being involved is the single most important aspect. You cannot trust the schools and teachers to raise your children. You will always be more interested in your child than the teacher and the school.
I’ve known some really good teachers who really push kids and make sure each one has a genuine understanding of the material, but a lot of teachers are unfortunately there for the summers off, consistent hours, and easy paycheck. They read the textbook and then tell the kids to read the textbook. They have little or no understanding of the context beyond the presented material. If a kid asks a question and it’s beyond what is in the textbook they can’t answer it…..correctly at least.
I don’t fully blame the teachers. Sure, many could care more and try to expand the knowledge of their subject, but look at what they are given. Almost no money. They don’t get to pick the material or the curriculum. They have to deal with troubled and disrespectful kids. Kids that learn all sorts of different ways. How could you possibly help each kid understand in a class of 30+ for only one hour each day?
I remember the teachers I didn’t like, looking back were my favorites. They were the ones that wouldn’t let me coast. They pushed me. They kept me from beating the system. It was irritating, but those were the subjects that stuck. I had to put extra effort in because the teacher was all over me! I just remember school being sooo easy for the most part. I could skip most of high school because I could read the textbook and take the tests and get a good enough grade to pass. Without doing homework and without attendance. School made it too easy to coast. Because if they move too fast they leave other students behind. So those at the top of the class are twiddling their thumbs because they get bored and the sheer amount of busy work is mind-boggling. That, in reality, was why I stopped going to class. We were not really learning in most of those classes. We were being kept busy. I had a beach to go to. And now look at me. If you know anything about writing you are cringing in horror at the way I write. Here I am a product of the number 1 school system barely squeaking out a coherent sentence.
Pick the best available school, of course, but dad you have to be involved. You have to know where your kid is struggling, where they are excelling, and where they are coasting. You should be involved with the teachers if you want your kid to get that little bit of extra attention. That’s just simple human nature. You need to know your kid’s friends and social circle. It’s important. Then you need to help guide them with conversations such as: “There are some friends you should hang around less. They are going down a path I don’t want for you.”, “There are some subjects we need to dig deeper into. Maybe because you are struggling, and we need to find another way to learn the material.”
Be involved. It’s what a good dad does. This isn’t delegation. Locking a kid in their room and telling them to figure it out is not always the answer. Some kids need your help. Don’t expect the school to raise your kid. That’s your job. Fair warning here. We homeschool. We took our kids out of the #1 school district to homeschool all of them. I had four reasons for being in favor of homeschooling.
I’m a college dropout. Before you make fun of me, I had a 3.8 GPA and was accepted into WVU’s business school. At that time a top business school in the country (because rankings are important to me :-J ).
I dropped out to join the real world. There were some circumstantial factors, but long story short, I dropped out and found more educational value in the real world. My biggest issue with college is the insane cost and the presumption that a degree is the only way to be successful in life. It’s just not true. I find it irritating when people tell me they HAD to get a loan for college. That’s a lie. There are cheaper schools, you can work through school, or you can do both. Alternatively, you can apply for scholarships, join the military, or find a program that pays for school. No one has only one option. College is a choice. Don’t confuse what you want with what you need. There is always another option and another path. Find a way. Speaking of options, trade work can make you a really good living, often a lot better than the white-collar worker with a degree that looks down on blue-collar work. We have been told for so long that you need to go to college, so you don’t have to do a blue-collar job. Truth is blue-collar work pays. There is a high demand for skilled workers. Skilled workers can leverage their talents to really make a very high income. There are a lot of specific trade skills out there. It’s valuable to the extent of demand. If your field of work gets oversaturated with people doing the same work, then you lose leverage, but if no one wants to do it then you are in high demand. Computer programmers and coders are in high demand right now, because there are not enough. In 20 years the landscape might be different. Everyone might be a code writer and that drives the cost of labor. Hence, where we are with college degrees. If everyone has one….is it really valuable?
DADS GOING BACK TO SCHOOL
My default response 95% of the time is don’t do it. Typically there is some stressor in their lives that are driving that decision and in reality, it’s just a panicked answer to delay the inevitable. Some realities you need to consider: 1) Can you afford the cost of tuition and books and whatever else comes up? 2) Can you work while in school? 3) Can your family handle you being immersed in school and, hopefully, your job? 4) How fast is the return on investment? 5) How much more will you make than you make can make now?
When you have a family, stopping everything to go into debt and immerse yourself in school is not the right answer. A change in career might be the right answer. A change in the amount of time you work might be the right answer. Starting a side business might be the right answer (if you can financially absorb it and it doesn’t ruin your home life). I’m okay with those options. Just don’t turn your world upside down thinking if you get some degree your life will magically be perfect. It’s not the case.