This past week, I have been thinking about the college admissions scandal and what it says about the disconnect between what we say our values are and the messages we send through our actions. If I assume the best about the parents involved, I would like to think that on some level they purport to, and most likely believe in, the values of integrity, fairness, and honesty. But they also struggle with what they consider the real world of college admissions and what makes for a meaningful life of the child they love. It’s complicated, right?
In thinking about this internal struggle, I came across an article written by Richard Weissbourd (who also happens to be the author of The Parents We Mean To Be). In the piece, Weissbourd addresses the gap between what parents and teachers say we value, and the messages children are receiving. Research suggests that most parents and teachers value caring over achievement. The problem is, that is not the message students are hearing.
80 percent of students reported that their parents prioritized achievement (57%) or happiness (27%) over everything else. Only 19 percent of students reported that being a caring individual was highly important to their parents. Teachers did not fare much better. While promoting caring is a top priority of a majority of teachers, students believe academic achievement is by far the main thing teachers are concerned about.
The research shows that parents and teachers want caring to be a top priority (above achievement) for their children but our messaging is not in sync with that desire. A majority of teacher conversations with students is around academics and parents often want to know how their child did on a project before they ask about how they cared for a classmate. It is not that students don’t think we value caring, they do, just significantly less than achievement.
Our fears are that the real world of high schools and universities care more about the transcript than the person. But our inner selves know that a caring individual leads a rich life beyond measure. It’s complicated, right?
It is not as if there is a right or wrong answer here. Academics are important, caring is important and striking the balance between the two is an ongoing conversation. If you would like to be part of that conversation, please join us in reading The Parents We Mean To Be.