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Parents and Popular Culture

All the government innovations and decrees in the world are not going to create a generation of high-achieving U.S. youth unless parents are willing to reform the way they bring up their children.

A basic truth about education is that quality education has always belonged to the children of the wealthy. Education in a democracy gives the illusion that the children of every social and economic class have the opportunity to enjoy the kind of education that in past eras have been available only to the children of the privileged classes.

True, the opportunities for education in the United States at this period of its history are there for all children, boys and girls, rich and poor, but...

The “but” in this scenario is U.S. popular culture itself.

To be sure, many parents are willing to make great sacrifices in order to buffer their children from negative cultural influences. We often read about high-salaried men and women who quit their jobs in order to spend more time with their children, usually in out-of-the way places devoid of television and advertising.

Not many parents can do anything that extreme, but all can give careful thought to U.S. cultural beliefs and their effects on the intellectual and emotional development of children.

Here are some commonly held assumptions about children that American parents may wish to question:

A child’s education begins with Kindergarten or First Grade.
FACT: A child’s education begins at birth. Parents are the first teachers.

Buying children lots of toys, fashionable clothing, and electronic gadgets is a way to show love.
FACT: an electronic device that reads to a child is no substitute for the intellectual and emotional experience of being held on someone’s lap and being read to. Children showered with material goods become grasping, dissatisfied adults.

Unlimited, unsupervised television viewing can’t hurt them.
FACT: Most television programming and advertising are geared to the promotion of greed, fear, and contempt for learning. Television viewing should be a very small part of a child's day. Parents should watch with children and comment on questionable information or values presented in the programming.

High school students should have their own cars if at all possible.
FACT: Car ownership is for adults. Car ownership for teens is dangerous, distracting and stressful. Teens who have limited use of the family car have fewer accidents.

Students with unexceptional grades should be encouraged to go to college.
FACT: Children who don’t get as much as they can out of elementary and high school are not likely to profit from college.

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