Thursday, September 08, 2005

Education and Values

A teacher friend of mine responded to my post on education and I wanted to share my response.

First of all, never forget that I'm just Some Guy in Michigan. This blog is not intended to provide detailed plans on how the world should be, mostly because I don't know the details. I have lots of ideas and opinions, but don't always know how to make them work in the real world. I don't claim to Know what is required to create an appropriate educational environment. I have a vision of what I think education should be and how I think values should be taught to the next generation, but I don't know how to actually create a system that meets that vision. For instance, I would like every student to have access to the resources my son has as a special ed student, but don't know how to make that happen. That's not the purpose of this site or my writings. If I ever become a administrator in government or education, then I would have the resources and the responsibility to figure out how to make my vision reality. I freely concede that a detailed study and analysis could reveal that the system we have is the best we can do, as close as we can get to the ideal vision.

This is part of what my teacher friend had to say:

Then there is the MS [Middle School] model you describe - at what point do
parents have to be responsible for teaching their children? It is the
responsibility of the K-12 school to teach children basic academic material that
will allow students to become productive citizens. It is the responsibility of
the parents to pass their values on to their children it is not my
responsibility as an educator to pass on my values. Not everyone wants their
child to learn to meditate Some view meditation as a form of religious practice.
How would you feel if I was your child's teacher and I was teaching him my
values which included the glorification of Wicca? Be careful what you ask for -
the results may not be what you anticipated.

My biggest question to you is what part do you play in the raising of your
child? You are responsible for teaching him anger management I am responsible
for helping him learn to be organized, how to read, do math and be a citizen. I
really don't want to be the parent to your child - I already have two children
of my own.

The person stated that the responsibility of the K-12 school to teach children basic academic material that will allow students to become productive citizens. Although basic academics is an important foundation, it does not make them productive citizens. Basic academics is not enough. And parents have very limited ability to fill the gap. For instance, how can a parent that struggles with anger management in their own life possibly teach it to their children?

The MS model would have to constructed very carefully. I think it should teach Wicca and meditation and every other form of religious practice. The system just has to be very careful not to favor one value system over another. I wish I would have been taught things related to values and religion in school. I attended a Lutheran school through sixth grade, so I was at least exposed to one set of values, something public schools avoid. Despite the fact that I now wholeheartedly reject the Lutheran value system, I am grateful that I was taught values in school. It is not something I could have learned at home, despite having pretty good parents. I think the fact that I was taught values in school is a large part of my success in the education system (Although I think that there was only 3 people in my grade and the classrooms were four grades together with less then 30 people in one room was the biggest factor). I hope and pray that my children are taught and exposed to many different value systems. I can't teach them because no one ever taught me. Every person should be able to choose their own path, including one different from their parents. I guess I feel that American society proves that parents can't handle the responsibility, they need help. And sometimes that means teaching their children things they aren't comfortable with and unwisely try to shield their children from. The whole point of my model is giving the students the resources necessary to become a productive member of society by choosing their own path and finding out who they are. Most parents don't have the resources or the ability or the courage to do that. I know I don't have the resources and want help. Many wars today are fought over religion and social differences. If we can find a way to promote tolerance in our schools by exposing people to other perspectives, that just might be a path to world peace.

The person I was talking with stated "that the tools necessary for people to be successful come from families - it's all well and good to know about other faiths but it is really the faith of our families that keep our bad behaviors in check." I've never understood such statements. In my experience, family is nothing more than a group of people that you can't get rid of, a group of people that you are forced to get along with because you're going to have to deal with them over and over again. I've always felt that families have very limited relevance to individual behavior and values. I didn't find my values until I got AWAY from my family. I don't think it's possible to get values from your parents, other than rote repetition of their values with no understanding or true acceptance of them. Those sort of values should be avoided if at all possible. College and independent research is how I found my values. So that's why I say the education system should be responsible for values, not families. Family is not up to the task. They do not possess the tools.

I'm a big believer in the Maslow hierarchy of Needs. It is a theory that models what motivates people that I have always found to be pretty accurate. It has five layers of needs. Each layer supports the one above it. The theory goes that you can't meet the next layer until the layer below it is being met. I think this model can show how family does not possess the tools to meet the needs that motivate a person and form his or her values. Family can and often does supply the most basic, low level needs. For instance, Family is usually good at providing Physiological Needs like Food, Water, Shelter (First Layer). In most cases, it can provide Safety and Security (Second Layer). As you continue to progress up the hierarchy, Family become less and less able to meet the needs. The Third Layer is Love/Belonging. You would think this is where Family would excel. And maybe it does. But in my experience, many families do a poor job of meeting this need. Let's say 50/50 chance of this need being met by Family. Often, the Family provides love, but the person doesn't feel it or recognize it, so the need is not met. I should admit, however, that this need is the one most difficult for me to understand. When I think about Maslow, I can remember the bottom two layers and the top two layers, but I usually forget this one- probably because I don't feel it's very important. I spend a good portion of my life trying to avoid Love and Belonging. I believe it is just the way I'm wired. Or maybe I'm just so confident of that need being met by my family that I proceed without even thinking about that need - that's certainly a possibility. I have to admit, I'm making a pretty good case for family up to this point. But the first three layers are just the basic needs. If those needs are being met, you can usually be a pretty well adjusted, socially acceptable person. But not a happy one. And not a productive, active, outstanding member of society. The final two layers can Not be provided by Family. In fact, I think the Fourth Layer, Self-Esteem, is hurt by family probably 80% of the time. My parents are probably in the 20% that don't. Mostly because they are smart enough to know when to get out of the way and not interfere. Most parents are not that smart. In fact, my parents are the only parents I know that are pretty good at finding the right balance between support and independence. My wife's family is Really bad at that, and her extremely low Self-Esteem reflects that. Of course, Self-Esteem has to come from within. It is SELF esteem after all. Self-Actualization is an extremely difficult need to meet. It means knowing who you really are. It is impossible for family to meet this need. They can, however interfere and prevent this need from being met. For instance let's say a person realizes that they Need to be an Artist. Family is often the group most likely to oppose something like that. But, on the other hand, sometimes family is the only one to support something like that. I guess I have to conclude that Family Can be the most important part of who a person is. For the first time, I am realizing that maybe family is more than just a group of people you're stuck with. Or maybe that IS all they are - a group of people that is forced to deal with you. And because of that force, they get to know you and you get to know them. And if you know and understand a person, you are more likely to meet each other's needs.

However, I still think Education is more important then Family. Getting a Family that can support you and meet your needs is luck of the draw. And many, maybe even most, people don't get so lucky. Especially in today's Global, High Demand, High Speed, Highly in Touch World. The needs are just too difficult to meet and the consequences of failure too important to depend on Family to create productive members of society. Anyone who says it's the job of Family to provide values is just not willing to face the responsibility and the reality of the fact that it can't. At least not by itself. Our world is too interconnected and fragile to allow family to be the only source of values. That's just too risky. Even the best parents in the world don't have the resources, the ability, or the time to teach the values our children need to be productive members of society. If we avoid teaching values in our education system, we are avoiding one of our most important functions as a society - preparing the next generation for success that surpasses our own.

Side Note: The final layer that Maslow considered placing at the top and that I think belongs there is Self-Transcendence. Self-transcendence refers to connecting to something beyond self. It is usually avoided by psychologists because it mostly lies in the religious realm. Something beyond self is usually referred to as God (or an equivalent word). However, I'm not afraid to address religion and I feel that Transcendence is indeed the ultimate need. There IS something beyond self. This need is Very difficult to meet or even know when it is being met. Family can not meet this need. Neither can Church. I define Church as any formal organized religion with people making a career out of sustaining and extending that religion. The Church exists to control people by appearing to provide this need. This lie is what makes the Church so powerful. And so dangerous.


Blogger Rebekka said...

I can't believe any one would say (like your friend did) "it is really the faith of our families that keep our bad behaviors in check" - what if you're brought up by atheists, like I was? Does that mean you have nothing to keep your "bad behaviours" in check? What nonsense!

8:10 PM  

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