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Rick Hess Straight Up

Education policy maven Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute think tank offers straight talk on matters of policy, politics, research, and reform. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Parents’ Aspirations for Their Children’s Education

By Bill Jackson — October 09, 2012 2 min read
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Note: Bill Jackson, founder and CEO of GreatSchools, is guest posting this week.

Good morning, everyone. Thank you, Rick, for the opportunity to chat it up with your peeps.

And chat it up we will. About parental aspirations for their children, evaluating schools, parental expectations for schools, and grand implications for education reform.

Let’s start with parental aspirations for their children. And to make this interesting, why don’t you, the reader, do some of the work. This exercise is going to take you a few minutes, so get some coffee now.

Here’s what I’d like you to do: take some time to list your aspirations for your children. When you launch them at age 18, what knowledge, skills, character traits, and other qualities do you want them to have? Imagine you just dropped your kid off at college and you’re hanging out with a friend talking about this warm feeling inside you... you’ve been a great parent, your kid is launched just the way you hoped because... why is that? What qualities do they have?

Go for a list of 10 - 20 aspirations. If you’re not a parent, pretend that you are. What would you want for your kid if you had one?

OK, go!

Done? Good.

I did this exercise a year ago as part of a parent education program here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Here’s what I came up with:

When I launch my daughters at age 18, I want them to:

1. Be passionate about some activities or commitments
2. Love to read; read for pleasure
3. Know a lot about the world (for their age) and want to know more
4. Have strong analytical and mathematical skills
5. Know a lot (for their age) about at least one area of science (biology, physics, etc)
6. Write well
7. Have skills in at least one visual, fine or performing art discipline (piano, theater, etc.)
8. Have at least one manual skill (sewing, cooking, fixing car, etc.)
9. Have at least basic computer programming skills
10. Be able to draw reasonably well
11. Have friends (fewer closer or more less close both OK)
12. Be active in serving people in need and/or advocating for ideas larger than themselves
13. Be kind to everyone they interact with
14. Have demonstrated resiliency through failure
15. Be physically active
16. Be optimistic

Why do this exercise? What are the implications for education and school choice?

Because, if parents are truly their children’s first and most important teachers, we education entrepreneurs and policymakers need to start by understanding parents’ own aspirations for their children.

Is a particular school good for a child from the point of view of a parent? That depends on the parent’s conscious or unconscious feelings about whether the school will help realize the parent’s aspirations.

Those aspirations will vary, of course. Your list probably looks different. I asked a colleague here at GreatSchools to do this exercise and here’s what she came up with (in half the time I spent):

1. Kind
2. Strong-willed
3. Thoughtful
4. Prepared to do whatever he wants to do (career-wise)
5. Happy, worry-free
6. A problem solver
7. Creative
8. Persistent

I encourage you to take some time to do this for yourself. Feel free to share the results in comments below.

--Bill Jackson

The opinions expressed in Rick Hess Straight Up are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.