Parenting quandary(s) Need input

Discussion in 'Dancers Anonymous' started by pygmalion, Dec 21, 2010.

  1. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    The current generation believes more than any previous one that Ideas Should Be Free. They will find ways to free up, organize and pass on information & knowledge in an egalitarian fashion, and the movers & shakers in that bunch will find a way to demonstrate knowledge via different levels of inexpensive but hard-earned and globally accessible certifications that have value & respect in employment circles.

    That's the educational system of my dreams, and I hope to contribute something to making that possible before shucking off... :)
  2. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Hmm. I'm not optimistic that your vision will be realized in the near term, sami, and I'll tell you why. People hate the rat race and see that there are Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and Tony Robbins out there who are/were enormously successful without going the usual educational route. But people also see the statistics about the average person's earning power over a lifetime, in the absence of certain widely-established credentials. So, as much as a lot of people hate the rat race, many don't want to be the one (or let their kids be the ones) to take a chance on stepping out of the maze.

    I'll use the example of an online "anti-establishment, " progressive news show I watch, The Young Turks. They are very, very proud of being anti-establishment but, if you google them and/or listen to them talk, every one of them has impressive educational credentials. One of the producers used to be a District Attorney. The host went to Columbia Law School and Wharton School of Business. The co-host has an MS from California State. And so on. This is the most establishment-educated anti-establishment group I've ever seen. lol. In the abstract, could a group of well-read, self-educated people put on a successful political web show? Of course. But in reality, do they?

    I think that there are a lot of social changes that have evened the playing field in some areas -- the internet, for example. Information is mostly "free" and anybody can go viral or share ideas. But, if you look at things like IT certifications, etc, even with the very newest ideas, educational institutions are not far behind in creating credentials to go along. (One example is the video game design degrees that a lot of Computer Engineering programs now offer. Who knew, back when we were playing PacMan, that you'd ever need a degree to design games?) I saw this with a lot of my friends who were in IT from the beginning, who taught themselves stuff, got a certification in their spare time, etc. When high tech went belly-up after 9/11, a lot of my friends who lost jobs could not get hired doing the same thing at a different company. They were now required to get credentials to certify that they could do what they'd already been doing for years.

    And then, when you add in institutional bias the prospects for change are even more bleak. Meaning, for example, the VP I used to work for who had a PhD from Stanford and who only hired department heads who had PhDs from Stanford. As long as people with credentials are in power, institutional bias like that tends to perpetuate itself. Whether that's good or bad, we could probably argue. It just is.

    I think that tt is right about the economy being the driving force behind the college angst. Until the economy changes significantly for the better, I think that people are going to be driven to get for themselves whatever advantages they can. Even with all the obvious flaws in the system, people need to feel that they're preventing themselves from being weeded out.
  3. bia

    bia Active Member

    I hear you as far as the ridiculousness of cost and bureaucracy in the current system. But I have three concerns about online learning that I think will have to be dealt with before it becomes central to education.

    1) Different kinds of learning suit the online medium in different ways. If it's just a question of a motivated student being fed information, in the type of course that would just be a big one-way lecture anyway, then I can see that working straightforwardly. But for more advanced kinds of learning -- how, rather than just what -- there's a level of reciprocal interaction needed that complicates things. This may be mainly a question of getting creative, because I can see ways that it can be done at a distance for many disciplines (though personally I would really miss the electric atmosphere of a really good in-person class discussion, and I think it would be harder to engage the less motivated students without it). But it can't be done with the ridiculously high student-teacher ratios that MOOCs go for, and that people just focusing on cost are so attracted to.

    2) The business model needs to be figured out so that the people creating/developing the information/knowledge are compensated for their work, rather than just the distributors. Basic scholarly research in all areas is currently done by the faculties of brick and mortar universities. If that whole system collapses, we'll be in a position of just redistributing what we already know, with no further growth of knowledge. It's parallel to what's happening in journalism -- the aggregators and distributors make money, along with the infotainment opinionators, but the major newspapers can't afford to pay for the on-the-ground around-the-world reporting that actually finds the information that everyone else feeds off. That is not a sustainable model for either journalism or education.

    3) If online is going to become a central avenue for certification, there needs to be a way to know that the person getting the certification is the person who took the course. There are already companies that you can pay to take your online courses for you. Physical universities have detailed assessment procedures that are regularly reviewed by accreditation agencies to make sure that a diploma actually bears some relationship to learning. Yes, it's bureaucracy, but I don't see how you can have a credible certification system without it. Learning can happen without it, but the proof of learning that employers need can't, because the financial benefit that people get from the diploma will always provide motivation to try to cheat the system. So, I don't know, fingerprint scanning on the keyboard, facial recognition on the webcam; I'm sure there are ways to deal with this. But they're not in place yet.
  4. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Oh. That's interesting. I didn't see sami as advocating for online education as much as advocating a redefinition of acceptable credentials. (e.g. Why should a young lady who can do computer networking be required to spend two years taking philosophy and art? If she can do computer networking, figure out a way to prove she can do networking [could be in person or online] and let her have at it.)

    Maybe sami can clarify, if she's still around.
  5. bia

    bia Active Member

    Hm, that makes sense. I expect that I'm responding to education discussions elsewhere, rather than just what's in this thread. But that then leads to the question of the value of a liberal education generally, which is an even bigger discussion.
  6. toothlesstiger

    toothlesstiger Well-Known Member

    There are certain aspects of it that can't be replaced with online forms, and that is interaction with a good instructor, and motivated fellow students.

    In any case, my point in the post you quoted was not about the education system. It's that the huge growth in productivity created by technology means fewer jobs. And, after all, the competition for schools is to improve one's chances in the competition for fewer and fewer good jobs.

    As I think about it, it seems the best thing you can do is encourage any entrepreneurial bent your child may have.
  7. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    I will add that, as the parent of a mentally gifted child with ADHD, I can really feel where sami may be coming from when she talks about the whole SAT/grade-stress/post-grad strategizing cycle. It's been a nightmare. (Really interesting story/slideshow in the Huffington Post yesterday about learning what it is to be the parent of a child with special needs, btw.) There are so many people who have no clue of what's involved who'll tell you, with very good intentions, that your child needs to work harder, focus, keep their nose to the grindstone, take the initiative, do it on their own, etc. Of course, the well-intentioned people are right, but not really. Nose to the grindstone, with a child who has learning differences, is a whole different ball of wax than many people have any concept of.

    Long story shortish, I looked this thing in the eye several years ago, when DS left Montessori and started in public school for third grade. I know what the educational system is I try to see all that DS is capable of. I advocate for DS to succeed within the system as it currently exists. There was a story of a young girl several years ago, now. She has ADHD and a couple of other learning differences. She also came to US as a non-English speaker during (I think) middle school. Zero English. She graduated as HS valedictorian. When she was featured in the local paper that year, she said that, at some point, she realized that, in order to succeed within our educational system, she'd just have to work two to three times harder than anybody else. So she did and she did. Her approach has served DS very, very well, especially with the transition to high school. Back in elementary, when the work was easy for everybody else, it was hard for him. But now that the work is getting hard for everybody, DS already knows what's required to excel, and he usually does it. Other kids are just now getting to the point where they have to dig deep to get the concepts. DS has been digging deep all of his life. I occasionally have to fuss, but not at all often. And he's in the top 10% of his class. This approach is working for him right now, although I admit that may change.

    All that said, I can see why someone like DS might see all the things wrong with this system and choose to opt out and/or seek alternatives that focus on what he's capable of, rather than require that he shave off his square edges to fit into an educational/vocational round hole.
  8. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member


    Sounds like a great conversation. Let's have at it. :)
  9. singndance

    singndance Well-Known Member


    Agreed.
  10. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    There are all kinds of ways instructors and fellow students can interact using technology.

    I quite agree, because the landscape of work is changing so dramatically, those who are able to think & respond most resourcefully are the ones that will be able to adapt to change.

    In my own industry, there is so much that is being automated and outsourced... It can certainly improve a company's bottom line, but it powerfuly impacts the human element, particularly locally. We'll need some resourceful, fast-learners and adapters to find and create new ways to provide value (aka, make money...).
  11. toothlesstiger

    toothlesstiger Well-Known Member

    One problem that is becoming painfully apparent to me is that high-school for a relatively intelligent child with educated parents has become so very stressful. They feel their whole future is riding on the grades and test scores they get in a time when they are not really equipped to deal with that stress. Add to that the struggle to compete with their fellow students in AP and other advanced classes.

    I don't know what it was like for my classmates when I was a kid. We had no "gifted" program when I was a kid, my parents were immigrants with minimal education, so there wasn't really any pressure. And I was lucky that I found my classes pretty easy. I can understand what it takes to get into an elite school, but I have no idea of the pressure that the typical kid that can reasonably consider applying to one might be going through.

    Pygmalion, my advice to you would be to keep a close eye on DS for any evidence of stress taking its toll. In the next couple of years, the lead up to college application time, is the time that stress will ramp up.
  12. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    I have two such children, so I do understand...

    I can, as well.

    IAE, there is no degree that can replace resourcefulness, troubleshooting, innovation, a "can do" attitude, the ability to collaborate constructively and know how not to bring drama into a workplace, or the ability to learn and apply new concepts in a quickly changing world. Those combined attributes are so incredibly valuable...

    It's my mantra with young people to develop those things, along with a 5%+ degree of expertise in an area one is passionate about. All the rest is...peripheral, at best a tool to gain entry to different areas of society.
  13. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    I agree, and it's actually starting in late elementary school or early middle school. I found it horrifiying back when my kids were in 6-8th grade, and they are now in their early-to-mid 20s. I find the way we are generally stressing and overworking our kids at school utterly unproductive and senseless.

    I'm grateful that my own elementary school had flexibility and the ability to allow fast learners to move at their own pace. I was given some room to breathe and do independent learning from an early age, thank god. That's what I perceive kids have very little of these days... room to breathe. Kids can't help but be overwhelmed and over-stimulated.

    Yep. There is no harm and probably much good in taking a breath and taking some time. The bow has to be drawn back if one wishes for a powerful launch to reach one's target...
  14. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    I think there are kids who are just "different", who can't help but be the ones to take the initiative to step off the hamster wheel and effect change, likely to the chagrine of their parents. The change will come from those kids, and in how they build opportunities for themselves and for other like themselves as they mature.

    I was one of those kids when I was young, and they were few & far, but now there are many, many more of them.

    I've managed to find a role for myself "within the system" despite my highly non-traditional approach & path, and I'm guessing that the ability of similar people to do this in organizations is going to become very polarized -- much less possible in the type of organization where I work, but much MORE possible in other organizations built by "the different ones" who are more forward thinking and have freer minds or attitudes enabling them to adapt to rapid change.

    Yup, as I work in IT I know what you are talking about. The industry is going in a challenging direction for fewer hard-sought jobs. However... someone who is on the cutting edge of learning will always be able to demonstrate skills & knowledge before anyone ever gets around to figuring out how to certify them. As long as they can frame those skills persuasively to the right people, they will be able to find places working for others in the industry. And if they can't... they'll band together and create something new, a new way to be of value.

    The system is going to change. The players are already on the table. :)
  15. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    And actually, some things can't be "certified". "I can get this complex thing done for you because of A), B) and C)..." and then demonstrating one's ability to do it... is the way to "certify" a complex set of abilities for which there is no course.

    Deliver on something and then that becomes your calling card.
    toothlesstiger likes this.
  16. toothlesstiger

    toothlesstiger Well-Known Member

    There is the challenge, though. The only thing kids normally have to deliver on is their educational outcome. A very few are such that they deliver on something besides their education early on.

    Education seems to be becoming very much like the rest of the economy. The gap between the "best certified" and everyone else is increasing, and getting harder to bridge.
    pygmalion likes this.
  17. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member


    Agreed. I may be just a big old Luddite (After all, I was skeptical that facebook would go anywhere. lol) but, even though there are exceptional people who think outside the traditional educational approach, those people are still relatively few, IMO. Will there be people who do their own thing and define success for themselves? Yes. Will wide swathes of people choose to and be able to do the same, especially within the system, whatever that means? I don't think so, especially when the vast majority of people in positions of power in our system had to get the credentials themselves.

    What you're suggesting implies that there are a lot of people out there in positions of power whose egos will allow them to question the value of the very "clubs" that they themselves worked so hard to get into. I can't see it happening on a large scale. Here and there, yes. On a large enough scale to create the kind of societal change you're looking for? Uh. Dunno.

    *shrug*
  18. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member


    Mmm hmm. I think that the current school regime, as ccm calls it, has gone too far in a lot of cases. That's why I think it's important for a parent to try to find a balance with her/his children; it's expecting a child to do all they're capable of but knowing when they're being asked to do too much. This is why it's important, IMV, to get to know your child intimately -- so that you have a very good idea of what they can do. In DS's school years so far, I cannot count the number of times I've contacted a teacher when I thought one of DS's assignments was wrong, unfair or excessive. I have no problem with advocating for my kid within the system to make sure that it's working for him as well as possible.

    I also require very little of DS other than school work. For him, school really is a job. I ask him to prioritize that first, which I think is fair enough. He and I can always renegotiate the balance as needed.
    samina likes this.
  19. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member


    Thanks for this. Yes. I keep an eye out for stress. I make sure DS has the chance to do stuff just for fun. I let him take an occasional hookie day from school. I do what I can to lighten the load.

    But I really, really feel for kids these days, not just DS. They are being raised in an entirely different world than we were. The first time I met a college recruiter, I was in late tenth grade. DS's elementary school (not middle, elementary) had college awareness days complete with college reps. Seriously?!?
  20. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    I don't know where these schools that are over working our kids happen to be....I haven't seen them...I haven't got friends who have seen them....I know that my own kids were under challenged in their public schools and only adequately challenged in a more rigorous school that we found for them ...and that was true from kindergarten through college...

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