Parents cover so many personal roles in their child's life that they can be great mentors. They are the best people in the world to perform this role because only they can give what even billionaire Warren Buffet says is the most powerful thing in the world, unconditional, non-contingent love.
(http://www.fathersandfamilies.org/?p=8730in) Other people in your child's life, friends, employers, etc. value your child conditional on their performance.
Learning encompasses more than gaining command of information. Heroes are fostered by close mentorship, a universal principle. A classic Japanese movie, Kagemusha, relates the story of a mere beggar evolving into a hero through inspiring examples-based mentorship that exemplifies the best in Western Civilization themes as well. See Prof. Louise Cowan's short synopsis at www.mmisi.org/ir/37_01/cowan.pdf . In stark contrast, the classic book "Emile" by Jean Jacque Rousseau is studied in Education Colleges as a guide for teachers. The teacher in "Emile" is a stand-offish moral relativistic mere poser of ideas for the student to be aware of and to find his own way. Many professors believe this approach to be deeply flawed.
For character building with kids, with their parents and scout leaders as mentors, Cub and Boy Scouts have similarities with 4H Club and Future Farmers of America and should be recognized for their unique track record of character development as readily as the well deserved but more conventionally honored science clubs. The former 3 organizations emphasize rural life or "connections with the land." Children helping to bring in the harvest was such a common responsibility decades ago that summer was taken off from school for that purpose. If e.g., teenagers failed to do their work, they would literally see their food being lost. The repercussions of failure were tangible and dramatic. Today in the city, children do not see such dramatic repercussions if they fail to fulfill their obligations.
This rural life - character development tie-in is dramatized with Dr. Alan Carlson's tribute to rural life in http://www.mmisi.org/ir/36_01_2/carlson.pdf. Yet, inexplicably, a study of the entrance requirements at a sample of 8 elite universities showed that students' leadership experience in 4H, Future Farmers of America, or JROTC was a NEGATIVE factor in predicting their acceptance (Esponshade-Radford Study - See Part 8 under Advanced College Planning for a further perspective).
Intellectually knowing about character and virtue is not enough. In the 1980s, Big 8 CPA firm Arthur Andersen trained clients with a documentary on ethics and valiant business owner examples, narrated by a prominent business owner. After a while, a letter came from Arthur Anderson telling all clients to destroy the documentary because the narrator was indicted for fraud, though he obviously knew as much as any expert about the principles of ethics. Another example covers classic literature. Prominent professors have rightly written that the timeless examples in Shakespeare help people see the importance of virtue and the futility and corrosiveness of evil. However, one of the five former Cambodian Communist leaders indicted by the World Court in 2010 for genocide was a prominent scholar and expert on Shakespeare. This apparent contradiction can be explained.
Regardless of your major in college, a large part of the first two years encompasses General Education or a core curriculum in Social Sciences, History, English, math, etc. The reasoning is that some skills are commonly needed in any specialty (esp. writing, English, and critical thinking) and that a common knowledge of our country and society is needed to foster good citizenship. If this is so SO IMPORTANT that it is required to get a degree, why then is there no cultural persuasion in our society to maintain a lifelong scholarly exposure to general education, yet such pressure exists for us to maintain the latest skills in our profession? Another benefit of this lifelong attention to a broad education is that we will be better mentors for our kids in K-12 and in college. As we mentioned above, school and many general education texts reflect poor scholarship and leave out key perspectives that would have helped students gain a thorough understanding of the major positions on the most vexing issues our country faces today. We have documented a lot of textbook content to prove this and have debated college professors who attempt to rationalize that there is not a problem. If you as a parent are current in a broad range of topics you will be able to help fill in any facts that homework assignments leave out. Some parents have helped field questions from their kids about these issues even in college.
It is hard enough to make sure kids finish their homework. But if you plan well enough you will not miss out on key teaching moments beyond just getting the homework done. Foster inquisitiveness in your children. If a section in a story or chapter is deafeningly incomplete, discuss it with your child and seek other resources. You are not studying just to get the assignment done but to learn that which is important, and develop an interest in ongoing learning. For example, in 1998 Scott Hunter, age 13 at Pensacola High School did a history paper on the sinking of the USS Indianapolis in 1945 by a Japanese submarine. The ship's Captain McVay was court marshaled for failing to take any defensive action. This seemed inconsistent to young Scott because all other court marshals in WWII were for much more egregious conduct. Long after the paper was done he kept gathering more information to explain this inconsistency. One thing led to another and with the help of the Indianapolis Survivors Association and Scott's testimony at a Senate hearing, a compelling case was made of a conspiracy to scapegoat the captain (who tragically committed suicide in 1968, over despair from the shame of court-martial). In 2000 President Clinton revoked the court-martial and Scott went on to the Naval Academy. Few remember what grade Scott received on his original report.
Are there FORBIDDEN QUESTIONS you are not allowed to ask in school or college, even if you stick with scholarly questions? (These are questions where, e.g., large numbers of Ph.D.'s from mainstream universities have written on the topic). Ask this question of your teacher or professor. In fact, let us discuss examples of questions professors actually did get into trouble over, merely by asking the questions. Their answers to this question may be very enlightening, or they may say that any question is OK as long as people are not offended. This would be a suspicious answer because universities stress that they are a free forum for ideas that "question orthodoxy, conventional wisdom, authority, etc." When Princeton hired Dr. Peter Singer and gave him instant tenure, they were criticized by some because he holds views that are truly offensive to many people. Princeton's response was basically that students should be confronted with troubling (outside the norm) questions and learn how to respond and learn about the associated issues.
Even if you do not take it seriously and only as a satire, we do have survey questions that are rather intrusive that you could ask a teacher or professor to answer so that you will really know where they are coming from if you were to be learning under them. The back of the questionnaire justifies why a prospective student is entitled to have answers to these questions as part of due diligence in assessing whether or not to invest their time and money in the class. If you are wanting to take a sociology class, put the survey under the doors of all of these professors' offices and watch the fur fly, though you could defend your action on more than one level. This would be a memorable learning experience compared to other classes whose content may not be as enduring in your memory. Too many studies show that students do not retain enough of what they have learned.
On the surface, colleges appear to foster engagement in controversy but, looking at the details, they fall short too often. The Ford Foundation, from 2006 –2010 gave over $2.5 million in grants to about 27 colleges to foster "Difficult Dialogues Initiatives." Typical of colleges' plans (at Ohio U.) was learning to establish that "collaborative problem solving can help transcend fractious partisan debates." However, with a few exceptions, universities' action plans for their Difficult Dialogues Initiatives grants reflected topics that may not have made some conservative students comfortable bringing up questions about, which if true, would be ironic. We can give examples of this irony which would actually help prepare students for the tough college environment.
Any job to earn money during the summer in high school or college helps to teach humility, hard work, and gratitude. Some students see the value in being able to speak well in pressure situations or have enjoyed drama, debate, or public speaking which would help with the following activity. You can earn money AND gain a familiarity with any of 200,000 periodicals (though a smaller number are of common interest) that cover the best knowledge about different careers, avocations, history, current events, etc. and you may find YOUR favorite career choice, hobby or area of study. Most of such content is not free on the internet, and you can help your Facebook friends as well find the unique periodical they need. This will build your resume with uncommon experience:
A Civic Engagement Focused Business Plan
The largest study of its kind in the form of a 36-page color book****, shows that high school and college students, even at Ivy League universities, have insufficient knowledge of key facts in economics, and US history/political science, as shown by surveyees being tested with a simple multiple-choice test you could take and compare your scores with Harvard students! Examples can be cited of the harm to our country that comes from this civic illiteracy. Even Einstein in October 1952 wrote, essentially, that “civics” is as important as “physics.”
Despite ever-present high-tech communication, door-to-door outreach and person to person discussion remain the sine qua non of civic engagement. Political candidates often campaign door-to-door, and even Google holds ongoing face-to-face seminars to train anyone wanting to advertise on Google. Though other research topics could be used as door openers, we have door-belled many homes, explaining the above civic literacy issues and 5 of 6 homeowners will be open to discussing this topic. An even better reception would come from your talking to your friends and neighbors and using referrals only. You can then segue into discussing whatever issue is most important to the prospects. Students can “over-learn” a few pages (trained by us if needed) that will compellingly defend the most effective way to deal with respective public policy issues in our country. This learning process is similar to a student “over-learning” parts in a Shakespeare play. When quoting Shakespeare smoothly the student is literally speaking like the most silver-tongued orators in history! Students of average intelligence (but a strong work ethic) can understand these principles, which will not only help them with this work but also will help them prepare for www.Southwestern.com summer programs when the students are in college. Southwestern partners with a number of corporations who like to hire students with this experience for careers after they graduate.
The prospect/homeowner will be impressed* with the professionally dressed student who exhibits wisdom beyond their years. If the student wants to earn money doing this outreach, they can then say: “Mr. Smith, you can build on your own civic literacy and be a more dynamic leader at work and home by subscribing* to the regional newspaper^, and important periodicals like the Weekly Standard or Forbes (if “conservative” or business oriented) or Atlantic Monthly** (if a “moderate,” or “progressive”). Citing examples of memorable, even poignant themes in prior issues can solidify the case for reading these sources. If the prospect is not interested in public policy, they invariably concede that such knowledge is important for citizens to have, and thus, the student has positively impressed the prospect and they may buy a periodical covering the best advice in whatever interests them: hot rods, parenting, quilting, pigeon racing, woodworking, etc. There is a periodical for any interest. The best periodical content (even magazines) is often not available for free on the web because of copyrights, and having to pay the best authors/journalists. Some prospects may ask a question the student is not able to answer. Students can get back to the prospect by saying: “Excellent question Mr. Brown. Let me confer with some of the people I work with and I can get back to you." This unusual experience will impress College Admissions. Also, by conversing with numerous and diverse people the student may happen upon a friend/client and periodical covering civil engineering, nursing, artificial intelligence, guitar repair, or making birdhouses for landscaping. From this exposure, the student could develop an interest in a career or college major, or an interest in a small business for summers between school. (Safety precautions should be followed, such as not going in strangers' houses or going near suspicious areas).
The prospect may want to help the student earn money for college, but this is not like raising money by selling over-priced products. Contracting with a good magazine wholesaler will enable large markups but with prices competitive with even web marketing sites like magazines.com. If prospects say they read on the internet, we have essays in learning research defending why the print media should also be used to study that can offer a healthy contrast to looking at electronic screens. Also, other magazine sales organizations do not offer the professional advice and service we are describing here. To solidify a sale, the student can offer a free book light that serves as a metaphor for the importance of being able to read day and night to increase one’s knowledge and literacy.
** While generally viewed as a moderate/liberal magazine, Atlantic Monthly does also on occasion offer perspicacious articles highlighting less politically classifiable positions for a truly diverse range of views. Examples include The Lincolnian Position on Abortion, a memorable story of Army Rangers Tressler and White winning the 1995 Best Ranger competition, or Harvard and the Making of the Unabomber (6-2000 & 9-2000) replete with a pathetically attempted rebuttal from no less than 7 Harvard professors. The magazine was also the first to publish Dr. James Q. Wilson’s theory on “the broken window syndrome” that New York City applied to bring about a large decrease in crime.
**** Go to www.americancivicliteracy.org for details.
^The prospect will see the unique contribution he can make in strengthening the community he lives in by reading his local newspaper. This principle is covered in our editorial at www.thenewstribune.com, "Opinion" archive under "Civic Literacy."
Some students feel peer pressure to go from high school to college. From many studies (e.g., see Dr. Charles Murray's book "Real Education") we see that students that do OK in college may have performed better in a more Vocational/Technical career path. Yet others have the brilliant potential for a great college future but lack the maturity to get the most out of college after high school. They could benefit from extended work experience before starting college. For example, other than the USA, Israel is home to the most high-tech startup companies with a population of only 6 million. Israel has also largely escaped the near worldwide 2008-10 recession. (See "The Israel Test" by George Gilder). Their success may have in part come from the fact that nearly all Israeli college students have first served full time in the military and are clearly more mature and experienced in "the wisdom of life" than are students straight out of high school.
Today, getting very good jobs after college is so competitive that students should probably pursue a degree when they are ready to give it 100% with uncommon seriousness or wait. If they were going to work summers anyway and not go straight through college (which can cause "burnout" for some) another advantage accrues to students who can cluster their pre-college employment into a single 1 to 2-year duration. Permanent work tends to pay more than summer work. If for example, a student took a 6-week trucking course (where they would do well, being college material anyway) then they could earn a good living doing interstate runs as soon as proven ready. To keep academic skills current they could take some distance learning courses and may not even need an apartment which would save money. A financially stable employer may cluster a lot of the student/trucker's earnings in years after college to be used to pay off student loans, with more modest payouts during college years to maximize student loan aid. With at least some savings and deferred compensation coming in during college, and with more maturity and clarity in choosing a major, the student may be financially able to go straight through to graduation in three years. This shorter duration maximizes learning retention and minimizes the obsolescence of what was learned.