Monday, August 29, 2011

Overhauling the American Family? Replace the American Dream.

In The Problem No One Wants to Talk About, Paul Williams (an editor at Christian Standard) connects some educational dots that need to be faced. The short version: the education of a child is ultimately up to the parents. You should read the full article, too, especially if you have school age children. We can blame bad schools and administrators and standards all we want, but the bottom line is that it is up to me and my wife to educate our own children. We've considered ourselves fortunate, even since Emily's first day in Mrs. Riggins' Kindergarten, to have our kids in public classrooms with good teachers who really cared AND were well equipped to teach their students. I know not everyone would share that sentiment, but we're glad to have had most of the teachers we've had and even keep in touch with a number of them.

Williams talks about how one of his wife's "greatest frustrations was parents who did not even bother to attend the school's open house or parent-teacher conferences. Even those who valued education were so busy trying to stay alive they were happy to leave Johnny's ABC's up to the school." In the end, he says, "It is not the American education system that needs an overhaul. It is the American family."

Parents may be too busy to show their kids which way to turn.

Families are definitely being stretched dangerously thin today, but before we throw parents under the bus, notice something tucked away in that statement: Parents are "so busy trying to stay alive" they've abdicated their responsibility. Just to be clear, most American parents are not busy dodging bullets or hiding in foxholes. Most American parents don't fill their waking hours clinging to literal last ditch efforts to keep breathing and pumping blood. So what are they busy doing that Williams refers to?

I'd argue that what we fill our time with is not so much "staying alive" as it is "getting ahead." The elusive American Dream was perhaps a noble ideal in previous decades, but the modern version of it is nothing like the simple original. It's not just the American family that needs overhauled, but the American value system that says "What I have is never enough. I must have more - even if that means burying my family under a truckload of Visa bills."

I read an article this morning about elected officials who were having a tough time making ends meet... just barely scraping by... struggling to keep their children well clothed and properly fed... "living paycheck to paycheck"... on $174,000 a year!

But this isn't about politics (I say as I choke on that last statement). It's about you and I and contentment. Are we sacrificing our children for a newer car in the driveway? Are we leaving our children to fend for themselves so they can sleep in a bigger house?

I have to admit I struggle with this. I never go to bed hungry, but I struggle with wanting more - wishing I made more money and could afford better stuff. Wishing I could go visit more exciting places and eat better food. But my kids don't need me to get a second job so they can ride in a truck with power steering as much as they need... me. They need me to coach their teams and be at their games. They need me to show them where the boundaries are in life and how to tell which ones are good boundaries and which ones were put there by some goober and need to be moved. They need me to help them know what it means to be a man, what it means to follow Jesus, and two of them need me to explain to them once and for all that men will never really understand them. (The other two need me to explain how to have fun trying!) I'd go full circle and say they need my help with homework, but... not so much. Not yet anyway.

How do you balance the desire to provide for your family with the demands that places on your time? Are you educating your children well, or have you left that up to "the professionals"? What could we do to help you "train up your child in the way he should go"?

Image via Agatha Villa at CreationSwap

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