Educating children – a health hazard

In the distant past when the dragons blew smoke over the land (figuratively speaking), I used to correct my little daughter’s workbook. Her teachers then asked me to desist. Those were the days when parents ran the risk of being deemed anxious or difficult. I was obviously picking up errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar which had been missed. And I accepted that teaching is a demanding job; I belong to a family of teachers.

Later, when my young son was required to study a particular river, he was not told why. When I explained the location and role of rivers in sociological terms – sites of settlement, trading, etc., he understood.

When my children were in high school, I asked a science teacher whether he was encouraging his students to ask ‘Why?’ His response: ‘Why?’ I then drew his attention to a scientist on t.v., who used to ask ‘Why is it so?’ This approach subsumed the subsidiary questions ‘What is it?’ ‘How did it come about?’ ‘What is its significance?’ etc. Contrarily, a physics teacher enthralled his students by telling them about the wondrous achievements enabled through advances in modern physics, but forgot to teach them how to pass the final year exam.

My Greek neighbour and his wife used to work 6 and a half days per week in their small family business. Their son, influenced by his Anglo peer group chose to be on the dole. So, they told me. (Apparently, one can choose to be on the dole; and an able-bodied person can somehow qualify for the disability pension.) Then, an Asian-Australian girl assessed as being in the top 2% of her cohort, claimed – as  advised by a couple of Anglo friends – that completing school was not that important! Against that, an Asian girl reportedly complained that her 99.5% mark in her final exam at school indicated an error in assessment; she claimed that her mark should have been higher.

There was also a son of an immigrant couple (Ph.D and M.A.) who told them, when he was 13, and on his teacher’s advice, that it is not for his parents to decide his future; he would decide that himself. Is this not akin to the neo-colonials of the Western world insisting on “placing the cart of civil liberties before the horse of civic order and economic development” (K.Mahbubani, a prominent Singaporean).

The differences identified above obviously indicate differences in cultural perspective. Would they reflect an underlying dissonance between civilisational values?