Thursday, October 10, 2013

Letter #15 - Youth Development: F.A.M.I.L.Y


My children, even though the future is unknown and many challenges await us on multiple levels, I thought this would be a good time to take a snapshot in time for you to review and consider in years to come when you are adults or parents.  Although there are serious political issues occurring, such as the current American government shutdown caused by dual political party control of our representative democracy and rumors of the President nominating a new xenophobic “tribal” leader, Janet Yellen, to chair the Federal Reserve after Ben Bernanke, this letter will avoid political annotations and concentrate on, and evaluate, our current educational progress and responsibilities as a family, and my ideology as a parent, in developing academic and intellectual development for the future.  We will use the current snapshot of our oldest daughter as the beginning example for this letter.  Currently, our oldest daughter has transitioned into 6th grade with high success and closes out her first grading quarter with solid A’s, 93% or higher, in all courses.  She holds the position of Student Council Vice President for her allotted grade, participates in multiple academic clubs, is committed to recreation and club volleyball teams, and has been selected to represent her entire grade in a school district-wide conference on student diversity.  I am not vain enough to believe that the ebbs and flow of positive and negative trends, and events, will never wash upon our feet, but I must state that at this moment in time I am extremely proud of the hard work and discipline that our young woman, my daughter, has put forth.  For the younger, she sets the example to emulate.  Again, in our current case, this is simply a nine week success period within a multi-year, long-term plan, and the planning and hard work must continue on with no accolades except a brief review and analysis of parenting on a small and large scale.  Our family, in no fashion, desires to hear “good job” from anyone, because by elevating responsible parenting to a level of praise, it consciously categorizes proper and positive parenting as something extraordinary or special.   Parenting is not something extraordinary or special; it is each parent’s responsibility and human duty to our children and society.

What planning and tools did we utilize to achieve success during the concluded nine week window, and at the same time will continue to use in order to strengthen and prepare for future development?  The answer is the basic concept of: F.A.M.I.L.Y (Family responsibilities, Advanced and supplemental studies, Minimized subjection to mass programming, Involvement, Long-term team work, and Youth supervision.)

Family responsibilities:

Responsibilities do not get less as a child grows older and I hold it as a great parental error, and an injustice to the developing youth, for a parent to shoulder family responsibilities alone while children lounge, sit idle, watch television or play video games.  Free time can be indulged and enjoyed when responsibilities are completed by all members of the family, and in my opinion, all members should be contributing members to family endeavors (depending on level of endeavors, required skills, and age).  I do not see a point in conditioning children, especially at the ages of 10 or older, to not hold responsibilities, to be exempt of responsibilities, and develop a disdain (or lack of awareness) for responsibilities that must be eventually held and completed by all self-sufficient adult family members upon adulthood: Dishes, trash, home cleaning, care of younger siblings are a few examples of many available as each household varies by family.  Our daughter has been taught the importance of contributing to her family and her contributions to daily family operations are quite natural to her even at the age of eleven.  This is one of many, many areas that I must credit to my wife’s parenting and development skills.  We will continue to ensure that our children understand the importance of responsibilities, and understand that having responsibilities is not negative; it is contributing to family (and later society in general).  Responsibilities and contributions also ensure that the developing youth enhance a deep understanding of time management and prioritizing, not to mention a deep rooted feeling of unity and collective investment and contribution, which is vital for academic, social, family, community, and society success.

Advanced and supplemental studies:

The format here is to encourage and enforce studies outside of school as supplemental education to the public school system educational process.  Many people criticize the public school systems, but these schools hold vital educational resources which our tax dollars pay for, yet should be exposed as the churning systematic machine with no real concern for individual children’s advancement that it is, for better or worse.  A machine does not feel.  It is not the system’s job to educate and develop your children; it is the parent’s job to utilize the school system in the educational process of the children.  The program we have used for a few years now is that we work ahead of the grade level curriculum and we work (study) each day after school, weekends, and extended holidays (with days allotted sporadically as days off for our child).  The real strides in the educational development process occur during the summer months.  I do not see a reason to choose between public schooling and home schooling when you can have the benefits of both.  There are many parents that will argue against such levels of educational progress, but we have seen quite clearly, and from a firsthand perspective, over a few years of experience that an extra two hours of education on school nights and four to five hours on a Saturday (and on school holidays and summer vacation), that there is still ample time for the student to be a youth and enjoy themselves as a child.  If anything, it makes the appreciation of accomplishments and the value of free time much greater.

The argument against supplemental studies usually centers on available time by parents, many of whom are single parents.  This is not necessarily a strong argument case due to the importance of what is at stake.  Parents engaging their children in advanced and supplemental home studies need only to plan properly, and ensure cause and affect discipline (reasonable consequences) in order to institute an extra-curricular program.  Children are full of potential, strength, energy, and endurance and easily rise to positive challenges once they are presented.  Parents only need to assign the educational studies each day and find time to review the subject matter in the evenings or on the weekend, depending on schedules.  During the one to two hours allotted for reviewing the supplemental educational work, academic areas that cause the individual child trouble can be discussed, problems worked through, and re-worked until comprehension occurs.  After all, the supplemental educational process is not for permanent records or even permanent grades, the time spent aims for true educational learning experiences, evolution of understanding and critical thought, and valuable family time.  Many of us are tired when we get home from work, but the educational process is about our children and we must make time to regulate and contribute to the process, tired or otherwise.  There is no excuse for a selfish parent that places their social life before that of a child’s educational development.

Minimized subjection to mass programming:

This is a rather simple process indeed.  We already understand the damning influence of excessive mass media, whether in the format of so-called sit-coms, movies, video games, music, or otherwise.  Any parent that can recall the 1980s, 1990s, or even 2000s, can see the expansion of technology and the increase of mass produced (inorganic) popular culture with themes promoting apathy, moral degradation, desensitizing immoral behavior to the point of social acceptability with many faucets of negative implications for the youth (future parents and adults).  There are positive entertainment and documentaries available, but these brief rays of social and intellectual development are lost in the deluge of meaningless propaganda and mind numbing content that is force fed our people on a heavy dosage rotation.  This negative influence and impact on our youth is easily minimized by keeping youth engaged and involved in educational pursuits, active family activity, social interaction activities, and sports.  It really doesn’t matter what the activity is, as long as it is positive, keeps the child active, and enhances them in positive social fashion.  The negative influences of mass media technology are neutralized or minimized on an active and involved child compared to an idle child left without mentorship, parental engagement, and activities.  Entertainment at moderate rates, intermingled with an educated and mentored mind (young or old), is not as damaging as excessive exposure and excessive influence on an empty and idle mind.  In addition, it is highly likely that the more educated a young mind develops, the less interest that mind will take in idiotic and destructive mass produced so-called entertainment.  Any child left unsupervised in their so-called free time, left unguided by irresponsible parents, and consistently plugged into mass technological devices (produced by owners of mass capital) and constantly force fed mass-produced program waves subconsciously promoting distraction, destruction, and apathy are clearly at a disadvantage in intellectual development and preparation for future, and in my opinion, at risk of a negative social outcome, or an outcome quite below their natural potential.

Involvement:

Involvement is in direct correlation to minimizing subjection to mass programming and minimizing negative social influences.  In our particular case, we have encouraged and engaged our oldest in multiple social interactions such as year round team sports, academic-social clubs such as Student Council, Diversity and Math, and we continue to search out opportunities for her to expand herself as a person, to engage in social relations with her peers on various stages, and to explore various interests that otherwise would remain unknown to her if never experienced.  I have heard parents make statements such as ‘Timmy doesn’t want to play baseball’.  In my opinion, Timmy doesn’t have to play baseball, but he must be involved in some sort of activities (athletically, academically, or socially).  As harsh at it may sound, abandoning a child to their own devices is not smart parenting and does no justice to the child.

Long-term team work:

When I speak of long-term team work, I mean that the development of a child is a family goal and requires the active participation of all members (whether small family or large).  It is a long-term planning goal that consists of many short-term objectives.  A successful planning process requires participation, communication, and involvement of all members of the plan (family).  Therefore, it is important to engage, as a family, into the areas of development for the youth.  If I assign my daughter a book for reading outside of the public system, I am also reading the same book.  In the process she enhances her mind, and I further enhance my mind, and together we strengthen the family bond through shared interests.  If my daughter is striving to improve at sport, I am either contributing to the team she is playing on in some manner or working with her to enhance her individual skills for the benefit of the collective team and her confidence.  It is vital, in my view that the village works together toward the short-term goals (education, athletics, and school involvement, or whatever the goal may be) and toward the long-term goal (self-sufficient, disciplined, critical thinking, educated and moral adult and positive contributor to society).  Working as a family is beneficial to the youth, beneficial to the family as a group unit, and strengthens bonds and understanding for the future.  A parent who refuses to sacrifice their own idleness (television watching, game playing, social butterflying, etc.) in order to assist and guide the daily educational process of their child is doing an injustice to that child.  I have said many times that it is a faulty assumption that a child will enter the public school system prior to first grade and eventually emerge as a moral, intelligent, disciplined adult after graduation without family effort and involvement.  Youth development does not work in such a mechanical manner.

Youth supervision:

This is probably one of the most important areas for consideration.  At some point during the 1980s, parents began to allow children a type of freedom and release from responsibilities, and this society misnomer has grown to be widely accepted as a social norm today.  I am uncertain what the original causes of this trend were, but some possible contributing areas that come to mind are: increasing single parent homes, the expansion of mass produced technology in the form of entertainment, and the reverberation of emergence from a politically and racially charged decade such as the 1970s where themes such as free love and drug use were promoted, and women’s rights, and racial equality were at the forefront of often violent protests.  Some rightists even blame the removal of religion from schools, even though I am not a fan of religious indoctrination and will refute this argument when it is presented.  At any rate, a general evolution in norms seems to have occurred over a three decade period that has resulted in our children being allowed to dictate situations that parents should dictate, choose to participate or not participate, and to be allowed to decide how they choose to invest (or spend) excessive free time.  In some areas of modern parenting, the parent-child roles have become quite skewed and confused.  These norms even seem to develop, especially around the age of pre-teenager to teenager timeframe, to levels of allowing youth the dangerous luxury of unrestricted, and unsupervised, social movement on the internet and through physical society itself.  I view this as leaving a child vulnerable and an act of blatant neglect guised as western liberty.  Many people will argue that the world has always be full of threats, immoral and economic crimes, and various social dangers, and that only now, with the expansion of news media technology, that these levels have become common knowledge to the masses.  As one that watches the daily news wires in a majority of our American cities, I would not argue this point, but at the same time I hold the view that the moral issues and crime trends have vastly increased over the past three decades.  At any rate, I would not turn my children loose into a society filled with such immoral savagery, regardless of the percentage of victim incidents per population capita.  Why take chances, no matter odds, on leaving a child vulnerable to victimization that could ultimately change a life path?  There seems to be a double standard on the treatment of teenagers.  In some areas, they are adamantly treated as children.  In other areas, such as in dress codes and behavior, they allowed adult privileges.

Youth supervision also, and importantly so, is mandatory for educational and academic tracking and development.  When we were growing up and technology was still growing out of infancy, parents had no real connection with teachers or schools outside of parent-teaching conferences or a phone call.  Today, there should be no excuses for not tracking a child’s educational achievements within the school system.  I am almost certain that the majority of schools today have the on-line grade trackers, which is an incredibly positive technological tool for parents.  These technological trackers basically show you pending and past assignments, due dates, and grades which allow the parent to encourage, remind, and, if necessary, take proactive disciplinary action instead of reactive inaction after a below average quarter passes resulting in terrible grades.  When these positive avenues of involvement and grade tracking are so easily available to the parent, it is no longer possible to blame the school system or the teacher for the poor grades of a child (even though parents often do so).  This is denial of parental responsibility and can often result in allowing a child to defer responsibility by pitting parent against teacher.  The blame falls on the parent, and is often the result of a structural condition where the child runs the roost and the parent has lost control as leader, provider, and protector of the youth.

“Are you a pimp, a hustler?  No I'm not.  Are you a man and can you stand alone like a man has to sometimes?  Yes I can.  Are you willing to go out there and save the lives of our children even if it means losing your own life?  Yes I am.” – Jeru the Damaja