10 November 2011 10:41 AM

Why We Should Admire Learners

by Dr. Rick


I’ve been an educator for a long, long time.  I’ve worked with kids of all ages and from all kinds of communities.  I’m old enough to remember lots of educational trends, from thoughtful to questionable.  I’ve worked with brilliant teachers and with halfwits.  The world has changed and changed again since I began my career in the late 1960s.  And you know what?  Despite the bumps along the way (and the halfwits), I’m still awed by the power of learning. 


Is there a challenge facing this tired world that can’t be made better by education?  If there is, I can’t think of it.  Knowledge is indeed power.


Why, then, do we tolerate what can only be called an inherent anti-intellectualism in our country?  Why do some pretty high profile people take pride in their lightweight academic history?  Why is there no movie called Smart and Smarter?  Is dumb really that cool?  Why do we keep denigrating “pointy-headed elitist eggheads” while making heroes (and movies, I’m told) out of jackasses?


Why are the ambitions of so many kids so unimaginative?  How many professional athletes and pop stars can one society handle?


It’s vital that we promote learning of all kinds, academic achievement, and high aspirations.  Being on the Honor Roll should be a big deal, right up there with the sports teams.  Making it into the college, trade school, or apprenticeship program of one’s choice should be cause for a well-earned celebration.  Supporting a smart, educated politician – well, duh.


Can we just call a truce, please, on glorifying prideful ignorance?


Here are some things to do at home to make sure your kids have a decent respect for education.


  1. Have extraordinary heroes.  Let your kids see that you admire people with lots of different talents.  Not just performers and athletes.  The family veterinarian who keeps Fido healthy.  The smarty who programmed your expensive new TV or computer, because you certainly couldn’t do it.  The clergy who uplift you.  The health care worker who cares for the elderly gentleman next door.  The writer whose novels keep you up at night.  The guidance counselor who had faith in you when no one else did.  The plumber who saved your kitchen from certain flooding.
  2. Talk about your heroes.  Talk to your kids about why you admire these heroes.  Do they make life easier for others?  Do they improve the community?  Do they inspire you and others? 
  3. Have high expectations of your kids.  Let your kids know early that you expect good things from them.  Best effort.  Accomplishment.  Perseverance. Responsibility.  Humility. 
  4. Have high expectations of their teachers, too.  Let your kids’ teachers know that your family values education, that you support them and their efforts.  And you also expect them to make great use of their limited time with your kids. 
  5. Don’t tolerate others talking negatively about education.  Challenge know-nothings when you hear them bad-mouthing learning and educated people.  Especially when your kids are watching.  Education takes persistence.  Since when do we not value persistence? 
  6. Point out foolishness when you see and hear it.  You don’t have to be snarky about it, but point out foolish comments.  Show kids how the speakers don’t have all the information.  Show the power of knowing facts and how to find information.
  7. Recognize that self-esteem and confidence are different.   Self-esteem is feeling good about yourself.  Lots of fools feel good about themselves.  Confidence, on the other hand, is a sense of accomplishment, earned and often fought for.  Big difference.
  8. Show that you continue to learn.  Lifelong learning is more important than ever.  Give your kids the great good fortune of coming from a family that values learning.  The gift that lasts a lifetime.
  9. Celebrate academic achievement.  When your kids make the academic goals you’ve set together,celebrate with them.  When they show intellectual curiosity, encourage them.  When they express interest in new skills and knowledge, indulge them.  When they discover new talents, support them.
  10. Acknowledge that there are lots of ways to learn besides college.  Not every high school graduate should go to college.  Every family knows this.  Mine surely does.  Encourage all kids to get the necessary post-high school academic and/or technical skills they’ll need to be successful, participating, and fulfilled members of the workforce of the future.  Just keep learning.

There’s no better way to pass on your values to your children than to encourage them to continue learning, to have real heroes to emulate, and to aim high in life.  Education is the key.


No matter what the halfwits say.





11/13/2011 7:00:42 PM

I agree with you and that gives me a special feeling of not being alone, however it IS sad that foolish comments and uneducated people are admire worldwide, I used to think that it was only in my Mexico that people admire the jackass and not the smart cookie.
I am looking forward to read more from your Blog.

Lidia Vidal

11/14/2011 1:51:52 PM

Your tips on how to encourage children to admire learning and educated people are great. I grew up with the belief that education is a necessity and should be respected; however, I also grew up knowing that everyone has different talents.  You might want to be a little bit more careful with the tone of this blog.

Your antagonism towards the "jackasses" of our society is undermining your blog. I am inclined to think this "prideful ignorance" you spite so vehemently is, in many circumstances, a defense mechanism on the part of the less educated to counter intellectual elitism, which clearly does exist. This blog is a perfect example of that.  Classifying all professional athletes and pop stars as halfwits is a stretch, while there are many politicians out there who I would certainly label as dumb.  

Tip #6 tells you to point out foolishness when you hear it. Well, professional athletes and pop stars - the good ones - should be commended for their perserverance, skill, and work ethic. In most cases, you don't become hugely successful without the very same habits that educated people utilize in their day-to-day lives.  They are good role models for the purpose of encouraging good habits, but that is a parents responsibility to clarify.

I really enjoy your blogs. You always give me something to think about.

University Educated

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