Johnny Has to Read to Compete in the Global Economy: A Follow Up

A couple of days ago, I blogged about balancing supports for student learning (the “teaching” side of the equation) with students’ own responsibilities to engage in the “learning” side of things. It was rather timely that I caught a documentary, The Hurried Child, on a CBC podcast over the weekend. The documentary cites Twenge’s research on narcissism and self-esteem, which I also referred to in my blog. The Hurried Child also deals quite extensively with education’s “shadow industry” of private tutors, preparatory programs, and extra-curricular enrichment programs. Parents are worried from the time their kids come out of the womb that they won’t fair well. Globalization, rapid technological change, and economic instability are stoking these fears. The podcast’s conclusion? If kids are too often calculating and joyless in their pursuit of grades, it’s not easy to see why. They’re under enormous pressure. It’s a great listen; I’d recommend it for parents and teachers.

In a similar vein, Freakonomics authors Stephen Dubner and Steve Levitt offer up The Economist’s Guide to Parenting (no kidding), which is both informative and entertaining. Their discussion of how much of a role parents’ efforts play in their children’s eventual life outcomes might be disconcerting to parents trying to cover all the angles on the “nurture” side of the nature/nurture debate. Seems I was on the right track when I once told my mother it wasn’t because of her parenting that I was incorrigible: genetics plays a stronger role than we might want to think.

Both podcasts dovetail the themes I explored in my most recent blog. Educators face all kinds of parents: those who don’t pay much attention to their kids’ learning, and those who pay entirely too much attention to it (i.e. helicopter parents). Neither extreme seems to help kids to become resilient adults. And while no one has the Magic Formula for great parenting (certainly I don’t), both of these podcasts offer some insight into the right and wrong ways to go about raising little human beings to become reasonably happy and responsible adults.


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