Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Eddie and Leslie In Elementary School

From Ashley and Po:

We continue with our analysis of how two parenting archetypes affect the long-term academic performance of children. Fyi, our goal here is not to help parents create the perfect stimuli to maximize their academics. Rather, our goal is to help eradicate the entrenched underclass in our society. We use these archetypes to portray how a person's educational attainment affects the way they parent their children. In many ways, the "Leslie" childhood teaches important lessons and values that the "Eddie" childhood does not. However, sociological studies repeatedly find a strong correlation between Leslie's future academic challenges and the fine details of how she was parented.

A school-age Eddie continues to be involved in a myriad of activities. His parents will continue to be highly involved in his educational development. Despite all the bad things they hear about public schools, they’re actually “well-satisfied” with Eddie’s school. But then, Eddie’s parents had moved to a new neighborhood when he turned 4, ensuring him a place in a better school. Eddie’s parents continue to regularly read to Eddie. They limit his t.v. watching - not just how much but what he watches - all the while still complaining that he watches too much as it is. They help him with his homework, making sure he knows how to do every last math problem. His parents go to PTA meetings, participate in school committees and school fundraising. They think this is important, not just because they can directly praise and encourage Eddie -- but they also use it to help Eddie in other ways. They casually tell a teacher that Eddie’s been practicing his multiplication-tables - but if he’s still having trouble, call immediately so that “the three of us” can work together to find a solution.

Since most of the friends of Eddie’s parents' are professionals, Eddie knows teachers, doctors, and lawyer-types socially. They are the parents of his friends, so they don’t seem like authority figures any more than other adults. If Eddie does have to go to the doctor’s, his mother encourages him to be an active participant in the appointment. He’s not just a specimen to poke at: Eddie should ask the doctor about what he’s doing. When the doctor asks a question, Eddie can answer it himself. Eddie and his mother both laugh when his mother confesses that Eddie’s diet “isn’t as good as it could be” - but don’t worry about it when they stop for ice cream on the way home.

When she reaches school age, Leslie’s parents aren’t very happy with the school she’s been assigned to, but her cousins go there, so they figure it will be all right. Leslie is no longer read to. Her parents rarely ask her any specifics about what she’s studying at school. Leslie’s teacher had once acted like her parents were supposed to check Leslie’s work. Sure, her parents asked if Leslie finished everything, but they didn’t actually look the homework over. If her kid didn’t understand what she was teaching them, wasn’t it the school’s fault for not teaching him better? They’re the experts. The teachers know best, don't they? Leslie, for her part, was relieved, because then she could lie that her homework was done, and they’d never know. Which was a good thing since she didn’t want a spanking for lying -- and they wouldn’t let her explain that the reason she didn’t finish was because she couldn’t understand the directions. No, this way she could watch t.v. with everyone. The t.v. is never off. Once, a teacher said Leslie watched too much t.v. When Leslie told Mom about the comment, Mom was furious. She told Leslie, “Well, all the nerve - you’re home, safe, well-fed, clothed. You’re not on the street like a lot of kids around the neighborhood. T.v.’s educational anyway: you learn more from CSI than you ever learn in that science class.”

Leslie’s parents go to school events -- but not as much Eddie’s parents. That may be because of their work schedule, but it may also be because Leslie’s parents see teachers, doctors, and others in the professional class as their social superiors. And while Leslie’s parents hope she goes to college, they are sometimes unintentionally teaching Leslie to be suspicious of superiors - even fear them. People like teachers can report on you for being a bad parent and get you in big trouble. That means that her parents are as deferiential to teachers as they expect Leslie to be to her parents. So in a parent-teacher conference, or a doctor’s appointment, Leslie’s parents say the answers they think will please these superiors - even if they aren’t true. Yes, she eats her vegetables. No one in the family drinks. They don’t argue back; they don’t explain. They just listen and nod. They even speak in the same short obedient replies that they hear from Leslie. And they never turn the tables, demanding answers of their own.

Because superiors are to be feared, her parents are teaching Leslie to take care of herself. When Leslie has a confrontation in the playground, instead of telling her to take it up with a teacher, Leslie’s parents tell her to stand up to the other girl when the teachers aren’t around.

Leslie's parents want the best for her. They are doing everything they believe necessary to help their daughter survive in a tough world. But unwittingly, Leslie does not get the support at home to excel in school - even if she happens to be enrolled in a good school. It is for this reason that school reform alone is not enough.

Tomorrow - Ashley's personal experience tutoring the Leslies in central Los Angeles.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I often watch this TV show called 7th Heaven. The father is a minister and the wife stays home but both parents participate in their children's lives. Not much money either. There are ongoing episodes on now with the Rose character. Rose came from a rich family but her parents are divorced. Neither are involved in her life. Yes, it is easy to dismiss this as a TV show but to me, it reminds me of what happened to me in real life.

my real life experiences are similar. My family are like the Camden family with one exception - I am an only child. My friends always wanted to come to our house because my parents cared about them. Some of my friends came from rich families but their parents were not particpating in their lives at all.

I understand that the Eddies and the Leslies are two archetypes. In fact, my Dad was one of the Leslies. He was very fortunate to meet a teacher who took the time to teach my father how to read and write. He was the first in his family to go to college.

I truly enjoyed reading about Eddie and Leslie in Elementary school.

As Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote in her book, it takes a village to raise a child.

8:55 AM  

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