When San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro talked about his success at the Democratic National Convention, he credited his grandmother and his mother. When first lady Michelle Obama looked back at her and President Barack Obamas success, she credited their respective parents and grandparents.
By YANWEN XIA
Special to The Star
For success, we credit our families. For failure, we blame the schools. Politicians habitually point to teachers as scapegoats for Americas failure to compete.
A society always reproduces itself through education in the form of socialization. Such education starts at our homes, and then gradually moves into schools or church or other social environments.
The first step to a proper education is to make sure children have internalized values and discipline at home so that they go to school with respect for teachers and knowledge.
Second, education in modern society has been perceived as essential to social mobility and to narrowing inequality.
Because children today are future citizens, they reflect and represent societys trends. A society that places great emphasis on education should view it as a collective effort made by families, schools, churches and all related agents.
In the real world, children from the same public school and same teachers follow a totally different path, with some being admitted by top institutions while some drop out of school.
This is because they go to school mentally equipped with a different attitude, discipline, and emotional and psychological readiness for serious academic endeavor.
To a great extent, the kind of socialization and the values instilled in a child right after birth shapes his vision of the world and plays a large role in whether he will make it through high school and college.
Its not difficult to see that our education woes would be alleviated if all children were raised in the same supportive environment as was our first lady.
However, all efforts dealing with education pains have largely ignored the root of the problem and have unfairly targeted teachers.
True, there are competent and incompetent teachers, just as there are competent and incompetent employees everywhere else.
But teachers, no matter how good they are, are not the decisive factors in determining a childs path.
No serious learning can take place without readiness of mind and the proper discipline. A teachers job is to teach, not to discipline rebellious teens.
The firing of all teachers at Rhode Island Central Falls High in 2010 has not improved the abysmal test scores of the school. This should serve as a thoughtful reminder that teachers are not the only key to turning things around.
In fact, Central Falls High should also serve as a test case, allowing politicians to dissect school problems. Minorities make up more than 86 percent of this schools student body: 71 percent are Hispanics, with non-English speaking backgrounds.
When the president applauded the firing and insisted on accountability from the teachers, he turned a blind eye to the larger problems that the countrys failing schools face.
A society tends to move in the direction of the dominant population. The confirmed demographic shift should bring to the fore the urgent need to rise to the challenge and find an effective collective effort in educating our future citizens.
That means society should hold parents to high standards and demand accountability from parents as a first step to serious school learning.
Yanwen Xia of Overland Park grew up in China and worked as a reporter at China Daily. She has taught in colleges and now works in research at University of Kansas Hospital/Kansas City Cancer Center. To reach her, send email to email@example.com or write to Midwest Voices, c/o Editorial Page, The Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108.