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Will It Be on the Test (a.k.a what are we really worried about)?

Updated on November 6, 2008

What are We Really Teaching Our Kids?

We want our kids to do well in school so that they can get a good job, meet the right people, get married, have kids, have things, have economic prosperity; we want them to succeed. The question is: are these the right benchmarks to measure success? And if they are not, are we inadvertently setting our kids up for failure and unhappiness? Are we equipping our kids with the right tools to identify what success means for them (afterall it should be about what success means to them and not to the parents) or are we just making little clones to fulfill the as yet unsatisfied dreams of the currently in charge figures? So the question boils down to: "What are We Really Teaching Our Kids"?

When the goal is to just get the grade to get in the best possible college many parents instill the "Will it be on the test?" mentality in their kids. They just want the answer so they can get the grade and move on (Or should I say "push on"?).

The problem resides in just being interested in the answer - just being interested in the end result; the outcome. This frame of mind stymies questioning. When the mind does not know how to question or what questions make sense to ask, there is a failure to develp critical thinking skills.

The ability to critically think is what will utimately lead children to lead genuine and responsible lives. Children will learn to ask questions to make informed judgment calls (e.g. does what that politician say make sense or is it just rhetoric? or if I steal to be cool could I live with the consequences of breaking th law?). They will be able to ask themselves questions that can lead to having a more meaning full life (e.g. how do I enjoy spending my time, what are my skills, how can I thrive financially?). When kids are taught to memorize a list of answers that will be on a test - they may get a good grade on the test but they will be seriously lacking real world skills about how to solve problems and make decisions. Afterall, that is what life is - problem solving. Mommy and daddy do not have all the answers for this test (even the pushiest of parents will get tired of having to problem solve and rescue their non-thinking offspring).

So what is the answer to this test? The answer is that a responsible parent is really worried about children having the life skills to solve problems, make decisions and know how to cope when (not if) problems arise. It is about enabling them to make choices and guiding them to make the right choices while at the same time teaching them how to be accountable when they make the wrong choices. It is not about brow beating kids with morality when they make mistakes. It is about teaching them to accept feedback and learn from their mistakes. The best way to learn from mistakes is logical consequences and the ability to critically think about what went wrong and what could be different.

Bottom line: As a society we have to stop judging success by the acquistion of the answer (takes the form of things and positions for some people) but be more concerned with the process of getting there. Asking questions opens many doors - including imagination, creativity and inventiveness.

So when a child wants to take a lazy short cut "Will it be on the test", encourage him/her to figure out what it is they need to know to be educated in the subject and tell them to just do the best they can (parents need to be happy with that).


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    • Christoph Reilly profile image

      Christoph Reilly 9 years ago from St. Louis

      You are so right, Lori. They'll learn the answer and forget it as soon as they don't think they need it anymore. And when they need to know it again, they don't and they don't know how to get it (besides Google it, which is what I do.)

      You've been kinda scarce around these parts. What gives?

    • lori763 profile image

      lori763 9 years ago from SWFL

      Hello Tatjana-Mihaela,

      You are so right. The natural curiosity and joy that children have needs to be fostered. It seems in our desire to make kids "successful", we snuff that out.

      Thanks for visiting and commenting. I will pay you a visit too:)

    • Tatjana-Mihaela profile image

      Tatjana-Mihaela 9 years ago from Zadar, CROATIA

      Hi, Lori, great Hub. Parenting is very responsible task, a lot of people become parents when they are not emotionally ready,and only knowledge about children they have is memory of their own childhood and methods their parents used. Which are very often inappropriate.

      Your Hub is making the necessary change. Self-confidence, self-love and self-respect are most important.

      This part I find the best: "The answer is that a responsible parent is really worried about children having the life skills to solve problems, make decisions and know how to cope when (not if) problems arise."

      I would like to add something: to teach children how to enjoy the life and find the creativity, happiness and peace from the inner source. When I have found these three inside me, I started to stop worrying about my future, instead of it,I am creating it. These qualities I found without help of my parents, I was searching them for many years, against their conscious will...

      From my point of view, the parents should give to the children their positivity and trust in the future, trust in the humanity and joy of life. With that, every task or challenge become easy instead to be to difficult burden to cope with.

      Excellent Hub, excellent topic, many thanks for that...

    • lori763 profile image

      lori763 9 years ago from SWFL

      Hi Shirley,

      I agree. Thanks for visiting:)

    • Shirley Anderson profile image

      Shirley Anderson 9 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I echo Nordy's sentiments re self-esteem. That might be the greatest gift of letting our kids learn to solve problems. They know they can handle whatever comes their way and while they don't like to make mistakes, they're not afraid of them. No one can be truly happy (or successful as society deems that word) if they don't like themselves or have some confidence.

      Great hub, Lori.

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 9 years ago from The Ozarks

      Lori, I totally agree with you. This is exactly the problem. It affects everyone.

      Sometimes, however, following our interests will lead to failure to achieve good grades, a secure job and other common benchmarks of success. This means that we have to prepare our children for the inevitable failures that will occur when the answer the child gives is not the one on the teacher's answer sheet!

    • lori763 profile image

      lori763 9 years ago from SWFL

      Thanks for your comments. Best wishes for an easy delivery!

    • Nordy profile image

      Nordy 9 years ago from Canada

      Bravo Lori, what a fantastic hub! What I have taken from it is one simple concept that Psychologists have known about for a long time - people are much more likely to work towards and succeed at goals that are intrinsically rather than extrinsically motivated. I do not discount the fact that doing your best, i.e. by achieving good grades, working hard, etc. are important too - not just for financial success but for fostering belief and esteem in oneself through self-efficacy. However, I think you have hit the nail on the head when you say that by focussing too much on results (i.e. the answer), that we fail to teach kids how to make the journey. And in the end, isn't it the journey not the destination that counts? As I mother of a 17 month old and another due in 5 weeks, I really hope that I always keep in mind these wise words you have written!

    • glassvisage profile image

      glassvisage 9 years ago from Northern California

      Great idea for a Hub. I admit I was usually the student who teachers needed to remind: "Don't let school get in the way of your education." To this day I get a little uptight about grades, and I wonder if that's my nature of my education and upbringing.

    • lori763 profile image

      lori763 9 years ago from SWFL

      I think you are right on (mini-adults). While children do need structure, they also need time to dream, create and explore (think, ask questions....hmmm, starting to sound familar). Come to think of it adults could use this too ...

    • profile image

      Writer Rider 9 years ago

      Gwendymom, I really think the SAT should suffice. And I agree with Lori, education should be more of a journey than a task. Makes it much more worthwhile and the student learns more especially for students under 21 who are not as emotionally developed as adults. Mini-adults, that's what we're making. All in all a person has to harness all of their faculties to succeed-including creativity.

    • lori763 profile image

      lori763 9 years ago from SWFL

      That is really interesting. I think my son would have enjoyed his school experience much more in a class discussion oriented program. He was home schooled for a bit and he did really well in that environment.

      Thanks for your comment!

    • cindyschulson profile image

      cindyschulson 9 years ago from San Diego, CA

      Great hub. On a personal note, I did my MBA in the States and it was all about learning what the teacher tells you to learn. I did an exchange program in Holland as part of my MBA and the teaching style was completely different. It was largely based on class discussion. I was so much more engaged in that style of learning that I learned more in that one semester than I did in any other. Of course, we all learn differently, but I would love to see more questions and discussions in the classroom, even at younger grades. Thanks for sharing!


    • lori763 profile image

      lori763 9 years ago from SWFL

      Thank you all for your interesting comments.

      Mighty Mom has summed it up very well.

       For further clarification, I never meant to imply that grades were unimportant.  It is the way to the grade that is (e.g. critical thinking versus memorizing answers).  The person who can creatively think and problem solve will have a better shot at getting into a prestigous school (not to sound braggy - but my daughter got in one - my 25 year old son on the other hand did not want anything to do with school after high school and is doing well too).  In any event the person who can problem solve will be better able to cope when trials come along.


    • spryte profile image

      spryte 9 years ago from Arizona, USA

      Children need to learn that there is never a guaranteed answer in life.  Adults might think they are doing their children a favor by setting a direct goal...if this, then that...but in fact they are doing them a great disservice.  Just because you work hard, doesn't mean you'll get ahead.  Just because you didn't go to college doesn't mean you can't have a great job.  Life isn't an if, then statement. 

      We must raise our children to think creatively.  This way, no matter what life throws at them...especially the things that can't be anticipated...they will still be able to handle them with grace, dignity and intelligence (hopefully).  

      "Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity."  - General George Patton Jr

       Truer words were never spoken.

    • gwendymom profile image

      gwendymom 9 years ago from Oklahoma

      I found that not only grades are important for applying for college, ACT scores are a huge decider now, my daughter took that test many many times to get the best possible score that she could. Also activities are important too.

    • profile image

      Writer Rider 9 years ago

      Yes, I believe that too (like I said). Grades are also very important, though, because options open up depending on which university a kid attends. On the other hand, I don't believe in accepting things blindly. Making education more enjoyable, that's what needs to be done.That and an overhaul of the whole school system.

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      I don't read anything about setting anyone up for mediocrity here. What I read is this: Lori is suggesting we redefine success from societal standards of "answers" which are too easily achieved by shortcutting, into standards that are more personal and meaningful to ourselves. If we are able to teach our children to think critically, they actually stand a much better chance of REAL success than if we allow them to progress through the school system with that "will it be on the test" mentality. Her argument places on problem-solving along the journey rather than hastening blindly to the destination.

      The ability to reason is the ability to define your own future. It's not the quick, easy route, but ultimately, it's the sure route.

    • profile image

      Writer Rider 9 years ago

      Everyone is entitled to theeir opinion Gwendymom, but I personally believe in doing the best job at, work, love, and happiness.

    • gwendymom profile image

      gwendymom 9 years ago from Oklahoma

      I don't think mediocarcy is a bad thing, if they are happy.

    • profile image

      Writer Rider 9 years ago

      On one hand I agree with you, on the other hand I really don't believe in setting kids up for mediocrity.

    • Misha profile image

      Misha 9 years ago from DC Area

      Great hub Lori!

      Yes, people have to pay taxes, not ask tough questions and die for the state when ordered. The rest is unnecessary sentiments, you know...


    • Shadesbreath profile image

      Shadesbreath 9 years ago from California

      I got one 18 and on the verge of being out and about. Couldn't get him into the school thing, ever, so hopefully we've at least instilled a work ethic (I think we have). Guess we'll find out. I just want him to be happy (and have a place to live and food to eat lol).

    • lori763 profile image

      lori763 9 years ago from SWFL

      Hi Again -

      Yes, I hope that I have been able to teach my kids these things as well (25 and 18 and now out and about) - I guess it is that empty nest thing that has churned up all of this reflecting;)

    • gwendymom profile image

      gwendymom 9 years ago from Oklahoma

      Lori, thanks for writing this. I do agree. I loved your answer to my statement above. I hope that I have been able to teach my kids these very things so that they may become successful (happy) in their lives.

    • lori763 profile image

      lori763 9 years ago from SWFL

      Hello Gwenymom -

      I am delighted to have you visit!

      I think we help kids succeed by equipping them with the ability to think and problem solve and then hold them accountable for their actions.

      People are basically good and will thrive when their basic needs for survival, belonging, power and enjoyment are met.  When kids are deprived of any of these basics (as a logical consequence to something they did not do right) then they adapt and learn the skills that are essential for helping them get what they need.  I don't think kids need to be pushed but they do need to be directed and guided.  I think the job of the parent is to provide a safe environment while kids learn the life skills they need to become fully self aware and responsible.  When this happens, they will not only be figuring out  "How do I provide for myself successfully" but also "What does success mean for me (happiness factor)?

    • gwendymom profile image

      gwendymom 9 years ago from Oklahoma

      Hmm, I do agree with what you are saying here, but I do wonder about how we help them to succeed. I think that yes, people can be happy and successful without money and a college degree to help them out in life, but doesn't money make life a little easier? I want my children to be happy, I want them to have an easier life than I have had, and I think most parents feel this way. That is why we push for college and good grades and do your best etc.

    • lori763 profile image

      lori763 9 years ago from SWFL


      Thanks for your comments.

      I agree that we need to teach kids about yardsticks and other ways to measure right and wrong (and that discerning right and wrong is not being "judgmental" but part of creating personal boundaries and is not equal to making a condemnation).

    • Shadesbreath profile image

      Shadesbreath 9 years ago from California

      Wow, I get to be the first comment on this? Sweet! It's like being on a hike somewhere and being the first one to come upon some kick-ass waterfall or something.

      This hub is dead on. Critical thinking skills are not being taught anymore. Kids are being taught (teachers are being forced to teach) to the test. We're making little automatons who couldn't reason their way out of a wet paper sack (I'm not sure how much reasoning that would require; I mean, you know, it's wet and soggy anyway, so, mild effort and you're free; plus, how did they get in there? Have you ever wondered how some metaphors come about? Anyway, I might be wandering, but hey, think how scary that is if they couldn't get out... that's my point).

      I go out of my way to teach my kids that happiness is relative state of contentment mediated by access to basic needs and satisfaction of certain core pleasure points. We decide what constitutes success. But in order for us to that, we have to be capable of recognizing what yard-sticks for success are imposed upon us, and what possible others might be used in lieu of these. I guess as long as I'm bandying about bad metaphors, my point is that we have to teach our kids that 1) there are other yardsticks and 2) how to seek them out.

      Ok, my train is wrecking your great hub, so I'll shut up for now. But suffice it to say, I wholeheartedy agree with this hub. Nice work. I look forward to reading more from you.


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