Thursday, January 27, 2011


My daughter had school on Wednesday.  It wouldn't have been unusual except that snow had been falling for hours when we got up, which usually sends Philadelphia into a tizzy.  Three hours later, she called from school to say the place was shutting down.

On the tortuously slow drive in, I joked that her head of school made the decision to open because of the Sputnik Moment--Obama's observation that too much of the world outstrips the US in education, and that the collective "We" would have to kick some serious math and science butt in order to keep up economically.  Probably her school was going to fire the art teachers and double up the math classes.

She was not amused.  But it made me think.  Okay, this was also inspired by reading about Amy Chua (no, I haven't read her book.)  The Russians didn't get Sputnik up there by jumping in and doing the job for their kids every time they had trouble making a bed or using a screwdriver.  By letting rudeness dominate when a meal isn't to a child's liking.  By worrying that if we set firm limits and stick to them, we might damage their psyches.

All of which I've been guilty of doing.  Chua's message is that kids are strong and capable.  Don't discredit them by forgetting that.  Obama's message is that the United States is strong, but disciplinary measures will be needed to keep it that way.

I'm in the arts; arts funding is going to be cut. Well, they gotta do something about the deficit.  I say, let's not waste a moment's energy by directing our energies away from the creative work at hand.  Under the system that produced Sputnik, artists and writers either gave up or risked their lives to keep working.  That's a far cry from where we are.  We're challenged.  But that's not an excuse to throw in the towel.

At least, that's what I'm going to tell my daughter when, today being an actual snow day, that Yes: some work around the house will be involved.


Catherine Stine said...

I think a blended approach is good. More discipline, yes; more letting the child work it out without coddling, yes. But part of what evokes creativity is free play and exploration without criticism or someone looking over your shoulder constantly. We are still known in America for our creativity and innovation.
I saw Chua on a couple of TV shows and did not like her vibe. She did a lot of backpedaling, for one.
But Tiger Mom does inspire heated discussion. And that's a good thing.
Oh, and please, Obama, do not cut the arts or teachers' pay, okay??

HelenQP said...

Ugh, I would not want to be president. I hope the new educational initiative is a lot more effective than the last one!! Thx for your comment!

Rich Sidney said...

I completely hate the fact that our society is so focused on the amount we pay for government that we forget the services that government provides. As you know, I am very involved in my town's annual budgeting process, so I know from where I speak.

If we focused on what we want to provide, then figured out what that would cost, we'd have an equitable tax burden and be able to justify it. By focusing on the cost, we forget that we cut services to lower costs.

Arts get cut because we think we're being overcharged, not because we think the services are unneeded.

Per-student spending in Natick is about $12,500/yr. That includes special education, transportation and athletics.

Find a private school for that money that provides the same level of education as our public school system. I dare you.

Sorry for the rant. This constant cost-cutting gets me riled.

HelenQP said...

You're right about public schools, but I suspect Natick is among the better systems. The problem is, now we got this dang blang deficit, caused no doubt largely by special interests and selfishness and stupidity. Hopefully the streamlining of govt will actually happen--put those salmon under one agency, for God's sake!!