Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

The Problem with Parental Advice

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

The Problem with Parental Advice

Article excerpt

While eating my high-fiber, high-protein cereal, I began thinking about parental advice. Our son is selling his house and moving, and I looked back on my vast experience in this area. I have bought four and sold three homes. As I tried to figure out the best fatherly advice I could give, I recalled two pieces of advice from my parents. My father said, during Gerald Ford's Administration when people were wearing WIN (Whip Inflation Now) pins, "Son, you'll never see single-digit mortgage rates again." I think my current rate is lower than the rate he was paying for his first house in 1950. My mother sagely advised me to never spend more then 12cents a pound for bananas. Thanks, Mom, I haven't eaten a banana for 35 years.

How could such intelligent and thoughtful people be so egregiously wrong? It is simply, and profoundly, due to their history and experience. We all form opinions about the future based on events and experiences in our past.

From my experiences during the Civil Rights and Anti-War movements, I have a well-developed cynicism about the ability of big bureaucracies to control events. From my experience as an inner-city middle and high school teacher, I carry firm and proven convictions that poor minority students can learn and perform at high levels. From my years of experience in school change and improvement, I often despair at our chances of bringing about systemic change in education.

Even the words that are commonly used inside and outside of our profession describe something that is locked in place and has no flexibility. We talk about the school system, the central office, the unyielding bureaucracy, lockstep curricula, rigid school years and school days, set schedules, pre-allocated budgets, micromanaging school boards. This doesn't describe something that is adaptable and open to change. Fleet-footed, we are not. …

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