Wednesday, June 17, 2009

33) Schooling

"The heart of education is the education of the heart. We must help our students to become really good human beings, have the right values, and live for something worthwhile. Academic life is important, but by itself, it is really inadequate."
Fr. Sebastian - Principal of a highly respected school.

A teacher gave her class a maths problem involving a leaking tap. One student finished fast, scribbling a number on the answer sheet. The teacher was intrigued. "What is this number?" she demanded. "Our plumber's phone number", was the 'smart' reply. Often intelligent children imagine that they can outsmart others; even teachers and parents. That is good reason we should pay heed to the wise words of Fr.Sebastian, as he continues:"In fact, if we are not careful, we could turn out successful egotists, or deeply corrupt professionals, who did well in our schools".

How do parents respond to Fr.Sebastian's words of caution?
1) By realizing that in schools the focus is more on knowledge and skills, and less on values. Schools are pressured into producing top results in examinations. So, they
coach children into performing well in those areas.
2) Modern schools have displaced the old 'Guru' system, where the child received knowledge, skills and moral instructions from the same Guru; where the student was molded into a better human being.
3) It follows that, the child now receives schooling in schools and education of the heart at home. Therefore parents cannot abdicate their responsibility to schools, just because they pay hefty fees; they cannot relinquish their roles of round-the -clock instructors and character-builders. Sharpening their skills, parents should keep abreast of what happens to their children in school; building on some good ideas, correcting some and refuting a few. With children drawn from different homes in the same class, some negative pictures could be on show.

One teacher puts things aptly:"Too many parents are quick to back off when kids object or complain. They bail them out of tough spots and make excuses or give in, when the going gets tough. Kids are a long term investment, and parents have to stop making short term decisions about them". Recognizing the long term partnership between home and school, parents should be careful in the choice of the school their children will attend; not necessarily a top school, but a good school which makes time for value-instruction and where teachers are a good example to students. Through
this partnership, between home and school, the self-worth of the child is developed;
the very self-worth which will determine the kind of relationships she will build. Will she scorn the less-privileged and resent the mentally-challenged? Will she lay much store by wealth and possessions and compromise on the means to acquire them?
Will she trample the feelings of others, including those of her parents? Will she install false Gods of Pride and Self-importance in her heart? The possibilities are mind-boggling and scary. The onus is back on the parents, to be vigilant always and protect their children from decadent influences, trusting in God's Infinite Mercy.

Some parents think that starting school earlier than the rest, makes children smarter. It is better for such parents to watch the regular and sustained growth of their children, than find short cuts to get ahead. Another false belief is that tuition solves problems for children who have difficulty with some subjects. When parents push children into tuition classes they admit:a) that they are defaulting in their roles of parent-teachers, and b) that they want an easy way out. It is not that tuition has to be ruled out; such classes could help a few children in special cases, for a limited period. Tuition is not a panacea.

Team activities at school organized to foster team spirit, should be brought into play at home when children interact with siblings and playmates. The Chinese proverb explains the lesson in typical outdoor language:"Only when all contribute their firewood, can they build a strong fire". Another lesson from school, on continually raising the bar and conditioning the mind to succeed, should be reinforced at home through the example that parents set. Children should visualize success as Bruce Jenner, the American Athlete did. In the Montreal Olympics(1976) he won the Decathlon Gold. The astonishing part was that he won every event in the decathlon. A phenomenal effort by any standard! How did he achieve it? Over his bed he had pictures of him winning each event. He fed himself those images in the morning, as he got out of bed; in the night as he settled into bed, and several times during the day. Those images were not erased as he participated in each event. His mind would not let him fail.

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