Disengaged Students, Part 17: Anti-Intellectualism Starts at Home
In this 20-part series, I explore the root causes and effects of academic disengagement in K-12 learners and explore the factors driving American society ever closer to being a nation that lacks intellectualism, or the pursuit of knowledge for knowledge’s sake.
It’s often said that children learn more from what they see at home than from any other source in their lives. It’s human nature to look at older humans, particularly ones that live with you, as a guiding light in life. No parent is perfect and the struggle to be the best role models for the littlest eyes is a daily one. When it comes to education, though, it seems that today’s parents are happy taking more of a backseat – despite the potential of their influence.
Why Aren’t Parents Reading?
Perhaps a more direct attack on academic engagement comes from parents’ attitudes, particularly in the earliest years of their children’s lives, about reading and teaching basic skills at home. Teachers talk about it. Administrators talk about it. National campaigns that encourage parents to read with their young children “just 20 minutes per day” emphasize the need for parents to be on hand in early learning initiatives.
But when it comes to parent-to-parent interactions, the issue is nearly non-existent. Where are the heated mommy blog debates about what type of education is best in the early years at home? Even working moms and dads, who get a little more guidance from child care curriculum, should be talking about early learning as eagerly as they talk about the dangers of overpraising their children’s accomplishments or gluten-laden food. Forget heated debates; the conversation on early childhood education does not even exist.
Facts are Inconvenient
Parents’ less-than-passionate approach to education further fuels a larger national epidemic: the ability of American adults to accept questionable theory as fact. Children who are do not see their parents reading or researching the issues that impact their own lives are children who are vulnerable to unfounded paranoia or inaccuracies themselves. Children who are unable to differentiate between hard scientific knowledge that is tested, conspiracy theories espoused by celebrities, and suspect summaries from biased sources are unlikely to make the effort to hunt down real truths in academic settings.
Our popular culture mistakes assertions and correlations for arguments and proofs. If the rise in autism cases and the rise in the number of childhood vaccines coincide, that is enough evidence for a connection to be presumed. If a parent who raised a child on formula later sent that teen to Harvard, then there is clearly no validity in scientific claims that breast milk is indeed a better choice. If a President cannot produce an original birth certificate at a moment’s notice, then it stands to reason that he is an African terrorist infiltrating the U.S. government to further the world-supremacy plans of Islam. Get my point?
Each unfounded argument that is unquestioningly accepted by parents teaches even the youngest children that belief does not need a foundation. Blind acceptance is encouraged, and intellectual pursuits discouraged, when parents allow themselves to be led off the scientific path. The early molding of young minds impacts the ability of children to think critically in academic settings, for better or worse.
For K-12 students to really excel in classrooms, they must have the knowledge pursuit inspiration from home. It will make a difference in the desire level for answers, and will boost intellectualism in the long term.