A new study tell us what many serious parents already knew: children's academic problems usually start at home.
From yesterday's New York Times:
A new study by the Educational Testing Service — which develops and administers more than 50 million standardized tests annually, including the SAT — concludes that an awful lot of those low scores can be explained by factors that have nothing to do with schools. The study, “The Family: America’s Smallest School,” suggests that a lot of the failure has to do with what takes place in the home, the level of poverty and government’s inadequate support for programs that could make a difference, like high-quality day care and paid maternity leave.
The E.T.S. researchers took four variables that are beyond the control of schools: The percentage of children living with one parent; the percentage of eighth graders absent from school at least three times a month; the percentage of children 5 or younger whose parents read to them daily, and the percentage of eighth graders who watch five or more hours of TV a day. Using just those four variables, the researchers were able to predict each state’s results on the federal eighth-grade reading test with impressive accuracy.
“Together, these four factors account for about two-thirds of the large differences among states,” the report said. In other words, the states that had the lowest test scores tended to be those that had the highest percentages of children from single-parent families, eighth graders watching lots of TV and eighth graders absent a lot, and the lowest percentages of young children being read to regularly, regardless of what was going on in their schools.
I've long said that we unfairly slam teachers for poor academic results, when we're not giving them much to work with. Beyond too much of our education budget going to bureaucrats and other administrative costs, we give our teachers a crop of kids who probably get less attention than the family dog at home, and we expect the teachers to turn out a bunch of Bill Gates' and Zig Ziglars.
Of course, the Times predictably thinks the problem is "government’s inadequate support for programs that could make a difference, like high-quality day care and paid maternity leave."
Now granted, it's not as attractive as having someone else pay for the goods and services we use, but I have an idea that would be cheaper, better for the child, and better for society in the long run: how about having at least one parent stay home with the child, to nurture, guide, discipline and help educate that child?
I know. That'll take something else we as a society don't want to do: exercise caution and responsibility. And accepting responsibility for the consequences of our decisions.
That means we'll have to make better marriage choices (don't marry the lazy scumbag just because he has a cute smile, don't marry the self-absorbed bimbo just because she has a nice wiggle, don't marry the dirtbag who has violent tendencies even if he does have a good job, etc.) so that we increase our odds of staying married to the person we vowed to stay with until death.
And--provided we're not talking about abuse--if, despite foresight and good judgement we still end up married to a jerk or jerkess, we may need to suck it up and stay with an unpleasant husband/wife for the sake of the children. I know, it isn't fun and it isn't nice, but remember: the adults had a choice about the mess they got into, the children didn't.
For those concerned about loss of income, yes, it'll probably mean sacrifice and less family income. But it's not impossible. My parents did it. My family is doing it (we have an old vehicle with a bazillion miles on it, and make other financial sacrifices). Many other families are doing it. We've faced the reality that we can't have our cake and eat it, too. If we want our children to do well, we have to take responsibility for that ourselves.
Sacrifices are necessary. But aren't our children worth it?
HT to the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy.