When solutions to complex societal issues aren’t readily apparent people will in many cases outsource their critical thinking to their favorite talking head on TV and then parrot that opinion.

But issues such as the opioid epidemic, teenage suicide, police reform and climate change are too important to be left to TV anchors because ideological solutions seldom benefit society as a whole.

Take our education system for example, regardless of one’s political leanings, everyone wants a quality education for our kids.  Meanwhile, we’ve all seen studies showing that American kids lag behind much of the industrialize world in learning.  And while the talking heads predictably ask questions such as, “What’s wrong with our schools?” perhaps a more incisive inquiry might be, “Why do American kids know less than kids from Finland, Singapore and South Korea?

When re-phrased thusly we are far less likely to hear, “We need to spend more money” or “Teacher quality must be improved,” because both those answers neglect the most important factor in the public education equation—parents!

There’s an old expression, “Kids won’t always act as their parents say, but they always act as their parents did.”  So, instead of buying into the inadequate funding or poor teacher fallacies, we should focus our energies on what the kids’ parents are or are not teaching in the home, because its parents who have the primary responsibility to engender an appetite for learning in their progeny.

Public education is usually viewed as a monolith.  And perhaps that’s the case in Scandinavian or Asian nations such as Finland or Singapore that are basically homogenous.  However, we live in the most diverse society on earth with myriad cultures and languages.

So, instead of comparing ourselves to other nations to discern our problems, perhaps we should first look to variances within our own education system for answers.  And when viewed from that perspective, there is a reason the Asian American high school graduation rate is 25 % higher than that of their black compatriots, with an even greater disparity in average SAT scores, 1223 versus 946.

I’ve never seen data that says Asian-Americans are inherently smarter than white, black or brown Americans; yet when we look at the difference in high school graduation rates, SAT scores, college degrees, and yes, even future earnings, it might be important to understand the reasons for the disparity.  And when considered from that standpoint, it brings us back to parenting because the comparative statistic that’s the elephant in the room is the number of kids being raised in single versus two parent households.

Eighty-four percent of Asian American school children live in a two-parent household versus only thirty four percent of black kids.  And regardless of why this is so, the reality is that it is so.  And it’s not rocket science to understand that a child from a two-parent home has advantages regarding learning and social development that a child from a single parent household doesn’t.  And if a child is not exposed to learning by age two, that innocent helpless little bundle of joy is already at risk in our society.

It is critical that parents are active participants in the learning process, and that’s exponentially more difficult in single-parent homes when the mother (who’s usually the breadwinner and caregiver) is working full-time, cooking meals, breaking up sibling fights, maintaining the household and doing all the other things necessary to keep the family afloat.

To solve any problem, it must first be clearly identified and agreed upon by the people who can actually influence the situation.  And it’s my personal feeling that this is one part of the education equation that neither academia nor the media really want to talk about.

I don’t pretend to have the answers, but we will never find the best solutions until we ask the right questions.

Quote of the day: “Children are educated by what the grown-up is and not by his talk.” –Carl Jung.

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