Globe Syndicate

Another Way

by Melodie Davis

for release February 18, 2000

Whose Job is Education?

I recently heard a true story of a young man who went almost all the way through college. About two months before graduation, a friend made an off-hand comment about whether he had enough credits to graduate. "Credits?" the young man exclaimed. "What are credits?"

His friend, even more incredulous than the young man, explained that credits were what you earn for each class and that you need so many to graduate. Somehow, he had made it all the way through college without picking up this valuable bit of information.

"Oh, I just thought you went to school and if you stayed for four years, you graduated," was the young man's explanation of how he thought the system worked. Turned out he was a couple credits short and was not able to graduate on schedule with his class.

You wonder how can such a thing happen, but then you think about how some persons do their jobs-for instance perhaps he had faculty advisors who were inclined to simply rubber stamp whatever courses he planned to take. Also, sometimes you find yourself in a situation where you don't even know the questions you should be asking-and so completely miss out on an important fact.

Like my husband says, you can send a kid to college, but that doesn't mean they will acquire common sense.

The debates about schools, education and standards go round and round. A quick analysis--not very complete:

* Politicians want results-data that show that taxpayers are getting a good deal, statistics that compare favorably to other countries

* While some educators (the really good ones) want their students to learn in order to succeed in school and life, there is pressure on teachers for students to pass certain tests. This is nothing new in many countries of the world.

* Some parents want their kids to graduate from the best schools with the best grades at whatever cost; others think that the job of education is totally up to the schools and if Johnny fails, it is the school's fault; still others are just trying to live from week to week and look at school as a place to send Johnny to get him out of their hair.

While this is a very negative picture, it seems that in the educational debates right now, there is a whole lot of finger pointing going on.

Jeanne Marie Laskas wrote recently in the Washington Post of parents who delay their kids' entry into kindergarten until they are six. While this may be a good idea in some situations (indeed, some say formal education shouldn't really start until kids are age 7 or 8), the point is that these parents are keeping their kids back to give then an age advantage, as in "they'll be a little smarter, a little taller, a little stronger than the other kids." Some parents actually admit that the ultimate goal is helping a son have a better chance of making the football team. One said, "It's a get-your-kid-into-Harvard-at-all- costs" mentality.

It is then that we would be wise to remember that schooling is different from education: that we all need a certain amount of formal schooling but the truly fortunate are the ones whose education begins the day they are born, and who continue learning until they die.  That brings us back to the young man who didn't realize he had to count his credits to graduate. Maybe he had the best idea after all, that you go to college or school just to take classes you want to take and learn all you can; don't worry excessively about grades, credits or where you diploma comes from, but just learn all you can. (This guy eventually did go back to earn his missing credits.)

So education is the job of parents from day one. Formal schooling comes along at one point in life, but the "A" students are the ones who realize and are taught that they are responsible for educating themselves the rest of their lives.

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Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from a number of organizations including the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three growing daughters.

NOTES TO EDITORS: text = 685 words; end material = 105 words

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