First, let me thank you all for the warm welcome. I am deeply cognizant of the fact that I am writing in the company of the first team, and I just hope that I can keep up. I am going to try to turn up here every week or two.
In the previous installment, I mentioned that children are learning machines. If you want to raise a generation that excels, use that. They want to learn. They are desperate to learn. And if you pay enough attention to them as individual people, they will learn from you. Don’t talk down to them. Don’t plant them in front a TV that teaches them that America is evil, Whites are evil, and that males are evil and incompetent. You have to present alternate lessons.
My children are grown. I lost a son at 11 years old, but the rest have done well. My oldest daughter owns her own business with her family. My next oldest got two degrees in 5 years, the next has her degree and has run a multi-county arts council, and my son chose not to go to college but became a chef and then a master brewer for an internationally respected craft brewery [and makes more than his sisters]. They, and my nieces and nephews have all mentioned that I am different than most parents. I have always talked to them like they were people, and not “children”. I might have to explain things, but I don’t talk down to them.
Part of that is so they learn new things and expect to learn new things as part of growing up. Part of that is the respect shown to them as people. Which they will internalize. If they believe they are worthy of respect, then they will try to live up to their self image.
Children will be what they are expected to be. If you have low expectations, they will live down to those expectations. If you have high expectations, and by that I do not mean pressured, just make sure that they have access to the tools and let them use them; then they will.
My dad had a 6th Grade Chinese education in the late 1910’s, early 1920’s. He knew what he did not know. From my own 6th grade, we had to start picking our classes for the next year. He told me that he would sign whatever I chose, because he did not know what I would need. Just as I was responsible for cooking for myself when alone and taking care of myself when alone from age 9, I was responsible for directing my own schooling, with the expectation that I would choose the best course of study for the future. And I did.
I was always a reader. When I got my first library card at 10 and went to the Aurora Public Library, they kept trying to chase me into the children’s section. I wanted to be in the History section, checking out and reading the 15 volumes of Morison’s “Official History of US Naval Operations in WW-II”. I told my dad, and his response was to give me a note to take to the librarians. It said: “Reading is good. You shouldn’t have anything in the library he shouldn’t read. If he can carry it, he can check it out.”. Just in passing, I had a bike with a paperboy’s baskets. I could carry quite a lot. But the lesson there was that I was free to learn anything that interested me. Teach that lesson, and be willing to either answer any questions or refer to a reference source if you cannot answer them yourself.
What they are surrounded with at home can guide and enable that search for knowledge. If y’all remember, there was a world before the Internet. In those days, a good set of encyclopedias was the best that you could do at home. In 1963 my dad spent the equivalent of a month’s wages to get a deluxe edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica for me. And I used it.
When my kids were growing up, we had functionally a library at home. Today in my house, literally every room has walls of floor to ceiling bookcases, packed; except for the bathroom and our bedroom. For décor reasons, the bedroom bookcases are long and low. And most of what I call my “working library” of military reference books from when I was writing for military journals are packed away, because I don’t have room to have them out. I arguably have a better history collection than our local public library.
That is what my kids grew up surrounded by. Then there is the completing link for that portion.
They have to see that reading, and learning, is normal. Kids do what they see. Just as certain behaviors make you someone who can learn, you have to model them as examples for them to follow. It takes up part of the day, but one parent or another needs to read to children when they are small every day. My kids’ bedtime stories were “The Hobbit” and then “The Lord of the Rings”. Yeah, they are not pre-school books. Kids don’t care. Kids will learn, especially if mom or dad read it to them. They may [shock] end up with a wider vocabulary than their contemporaries. They may hear a story [whichever one you pick] that has good, evil, the struggle between them, honor, and good winning through perseverance and being willing to pay a cost. Nothing being free. And it may influence their outlook on life.
If they see you reading by yourself, you normalize it, and they will turn to books. They will thereby create an internal horizon that is something larger than the adventures of the latest Disney semi-slut. If they hear you and your spouse or friends discussing what you have read, if you relate what they do see on TV to history and to literature, you widen that horizon. Kids are learning machines. We, Deity help us, have being a teaching machine as part of our job description on top of being the economic support. No one says it’s easy.
When looking at widening your children’s horizons, you have to have an aim towards what you want to include within that horizon. Here is where the final piece falls into place. Your school needs to be something other than the politically correct mish-mash of Marxist theory and anarchist “fact” that makes up the public school system. Where you send your kids and what is taught will make or break them.
Except for a dismal period in high school when I was stuck in the middle of Nebraska [where the world history teacher was acclaimed as the Nebraska teacher of the year, and in whose class I got an A literally without cracking the text] I grew up in Denver and Aurora from 3rd grade on. When I was there, there were schools known for excellence. Some friends of mine went to a Denver high school where admission to MIT, or Colorado School of Mines, or Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute was a common event for a graduating class. My own high school had regular admissions to service academies or to Ivy League schools before they degraded.
Now, those schools are sites of gang wars, drug emporiums, and a part of the production line of dropouts and criminals.
Looking at the school systems in Colorado, where every major system now has more administrators than teaching staff, there is very little excellence. You have to look outside the standard public schools to find such. Specifically, charter schools. And not just any charter schools. There are some whose teaching is based on the theories of E. D. Hirsch.
Hirsch wrote Cultural Literacy; What Every American Needs to Know, The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, and the series of books What Your Preschooler Needs to Know on through What Your Sixth Grader Needs to Know. Read these. Cultural Literacy can be defined as what you need to know to fit in to and function in a Western, Judeo-Christian based, constitutional society. It is exactly what is not only not taught, but is concealed by modern public schools.
He created and still runs the Core Knowledge Foundation. And there are a number of charter schools based on his principles. There is one in my town. There are fewer administrators. The staff gets less pay than teachers do in the rest of the district. And teachers fight to get a slot there, because they are allowed to teach. In Colorado, we have proficiency testing at regular intervals for all students. Not one of the Core Knowledge students has ever failed the proficiency tests in the over a decade they have been in existence, and most test far above their grade level.
A few years ago, our town’s high school abolished the position of Valedictorian of the graduating class. Because when students transfer from the Core Knowledge school, they are so far ahead of the regular public school students that the Valedictorian was always a Core Knowledge student. And it did not make the other schools and teachers look good, nor did the concept of someone actually excelling match modern educational theory.
Not saying that they are perfect. There are some behavioral problems. These are teenagers brought up in modern America, and in a state where marijuana is legalized, for pity’s sake. But the behavioral problems are a small fraction of the regular public school peers, and the dropout/flunkout rate is almost non-existent. By the vaporous cojones of the Holy Ghost, they are doing something very, very right with those kids.
So, finally getting around to the original question that started all this. I don’t claim this is the only way, but this is what has worked in my experience, and what books, theories, and schools I recommend.
Fair warning. Once I start writing, I AM a wordy bugger.