Wednesday, July 29, 2015

"There is no recipe for raising children to be successful adults, but parental warmth and affection make more of a difference than any other factor… The main finding… was that 'subjects who had warm mothers or warm fathers were more likely to be rated as higher in social accomplishments 36 years later.' - Radcliffe Study, Quoted in the Boston Globe (4/8/91)

I remain intrigued by the idea that to really help students, we need to be helping families.

Not trying to transplant things from the family to school, which is a risky proposition, and based on the belief that we can somehow isolate certain factors and replicate them outside of their natural circumstance. Transplanting practices that should be happening in the family, but aren't, also holds the obvious drawback of further weakening the families.

I call this the A-to-C fallacy.

A is where we are (in this case, wanting to help children who are struggling).  B is a known mechanism for fundamentally helping (in this case, parental warmth and affection).  C is where we want to be (in this case, children becoming successful adults).

B is the hard work. In the world of farming, it's planting, watering, cultivating, weeding--all the things you have to do to get the harvest (C).  In the education equation, a significant part (arguably the largest) of B is healthy families.

But because B is hard work, because we're not always in direct control of B, and because we're always trying to improve or be efficient, we look for shortcuts, ways to skip the work, and ways to go somehow more directly from A to C. This is a trap.

Remembering the importance of B, committing ourselves to working on B, and remembering that what we want (C) is B's natural outcome, means that we're thinking deeply and carefully.

So then my own personal question becomes: who's doing really good work to strengthen families, and how can I help them?

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