Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Spelling Bees, Dr. Ben Carson, Hard Work, Involved Parents and Education ... Equal Opportunities = Unequal Outcomes ... The Hard Work Factor

There's been a great deal of discussion lately about schools, teachers and the money spent on public education in America.

Government's answer about upgrading our educational results seems to equate educational quality with the amount of taxpayer money expended. That's wrong, of course, but that's the stock solution.

The government formula works as follows. When the educational results are poor, we need to spend more money. Then when the results get worse, we need to spend more money. The outcomes get worse and always the answer is to spend more money, regardless of the facts.

But let's dare to inject a bit of common sense into the discussion. OK?

Here's the question. Are we taxpayers getting our money's worth and are the students getting a valuable education for the time and money being spent?

Since there's been a great deal written about the quality of teachers, students and what standardized test scores reveal or don't reveal about student progress and teaching effectiveness, we'll set those issues aside for now.

But what hasn't been seriously studied and what definitely needs considerably more discussion are the roles played by involved parents and the necessity for consistently applied hard work by the students.

In my view, much more needs to be said about what those two simple factors -- involved parents and hard work by students -- can do later in life to create real wealth opportunities for those who begin as the 'poor' people of our society.

Accordingly, it's far better to be educated, knowledgeable, and to start out 'poor' in material resources than it is to begin rich and then remain uneducated and ignorant. The former 'poor' person will make great gains over time, and the latter 'rich' person will likely lose that which he had at the outset.

A healthy curiosity will lead to increasing knowledge, and when this curiosity and thirst for knowledge are combined with hard work and faith in the future, people are then in possession of the most important wealth creating capability that any of us will ever have. It's that simple.

Along those lines, Call Them Tiger Students. And Get to Work. is subtitled 'One reason why Asians dominate New York's top public high schools: high parental expectations:'

"This is the season when college notifications go out, and a simple "yes" is seen as a ticket to success. Applicants, though, can never be quite sure why they were accepted or rejected—subjective criteria, in addition to test scores, are used in the evaluations.
For many New York City teenagers, a similar academic turning point comes even earlier in life, but with one big difference: The judgment is purely objective, based solely on the numbers.
Welcome to one of America's last meritocracies: New York's specialized high schools, led by Stuyvesant, Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech. These schools are nationally ranked, their alumni include Nobel laureates, and they are feeders to the nation's top colleges. The admissions test comes in two parts—verbal and math—and takes two-and-a-half hours. Roughly 28,000 eighth-graders took the test in the fall. As always, those with the highest scores earned the coveted slots.
Here is the ethnic breakdown of acceptances for next fall's Stuyvesant freshman class: 9 black students, 24 Latinos, 177 whites and 620 Asian-Americans. . . .

At a time when the affirmative-action debate has been rekindled in the Supreme Court, when the president calls for free preschool for all low- and moderate-income children, and when the debates over education reform reverberate across the country, the numbers 9-24-177-620 amount to a Rorschach test for an already polarized society. . . .
The Stuyvesant story speaks to a larger matter: the national disparity in educational advancement according to race and ethnicity. Reading and vocabulary skills are cumulative, meaning that verbal skills are not based on what an eighth-grader can cram into his head in a few weeks before a test. They come from everything read and heard since infancy.
Yet some Asian children with high scores come from immigrant homes where English isn't the first language. This raises the question of the importance of culture—and the strong emphasis on hard work and higher parental expectations at home that make it possible to thrive academically.
Several years ago, Angela Duckworth, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, studied the teens who were National Spelling Bee finalists. She wanted to find out what they did to get there.
Many people might assume that the spelling whizzes have a genetic advantage, but Ms. Duckworth found a more important trait: tenacity. The finalists are willing to forgo the immediate gratification of watching TV or texting friends so they can spend hours and do the tedious and merciless grunt work. They write out thousands of flashcards with words and definitions and memorize them.
It is an unusual child who can do this while being constantly bombarded by popular culture's seductive images. But it also takes strong parents willing to guide the child and demand hours of difficult work.
The recent national fascination with Dr. Benjamin Carson is timely. He grew up in an impoverished section of Detroit and could have headed into the dead-end life that awaited many others around him. He had one huge advantage, though. His mother, who had no more than a third-grade education, turned off the TV, demanded that he study and, most of all, accepted absolutely no excuses. Ben Carson went on to become a noted neurosurgeon and author.
It is vital for America's future that those Stuyvesant numbers even out. But that won't happen simply by pouring more money into schools, hiring a thousand new teachers or offering Head Start to every 4-year-old from Maine to California. A better and much less expensive way may be for parents to look at what is going on in Asian-American families, or what went on in Dr. Carson's home, and copy it."

Summing Up

This all reminds me of the truism that "the harder I work the luckier I get."

Or that hard work has its own rewards.

The key to success is pretty simple after all. The secret is in the doing and the details.

And with respect to education, both parents and students are critical to the 'doing and the details.'

That's my take.

Thanks. Bob.

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