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