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Children, Parents and the Importance of Education

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Tyrefe Lanier

April 21, 2012

Professor Jeff Mark


Children, Parents and the Importance of Education

What does it mean to be successful? Most Americans strive for money and power to measure their success. Then there are the Americans who measure success by academic and career achievement. Parents in particular have their own formula that they use to determine the success of their child. For most Americans, going to school and receiving a fine education is a rite of passage. Often times, however, students use the educational institution as a social playground and neglect to utilize the full resources that are at their disposal. School teaches children discipline and it familiarizes them with essential tools that are needed in order for them to make a smooth transition into adulthood. Early childhood education is the most important educational stage. It's at this point that children begin to discover and understand their true self. The environment to which they are exposed and the people they interact with contribute to their overall self-awareness and psyche. Over the years the accessibility to early childhood programs has gradually decreased. In order for a child to be self-sufficient they must be exposed to material that promotes healthy and positive living where they can be free to express their true character or personality.

There are four developmental domains in child development. They include: social, emotional, physical and cognitive. The latter is commonly known as the process through which one learns or acquires knowledge. In looking at the elements for equipping children for school success, the cognitive domain is very important, if not more important than the other three. However, each domain is interrelated and builds off one another.

Jean Piaget was a social physiologist who is known for his theory of cognitive development. Piaget's Theory of Intellectual Development aims at detailing how knowledge is absorbed and how humans construct it and use it to their benefit. Susan Nurrenbern of the Department of Chemistry at Purdue University (who use the theory to help students learn science) says, "Piaget Theory of Intellectual Development has had a profound effect on education in the last 20 years" (Nurrenbern). Piaget's theory challenged widely held beliefs surrounding how one acquires knowledge and retains it. Piaget believed that children learned through active participation with things, people and experiences. He rejected the widely held belief that children where passive learners or blank slates. For Piaget, humans learned through a process he called "assimilation of experiences and accommodation of these experiences" (Wadsworth). Piaget based his theory on the following premises:

1.) One can learn about another individual's internal mental structures, schemas, by direct observation of that individual's behavior. (Wadsworth)

2.) Intellectual or cognitive growth is integrally linked to the physical, social and linguistic milieu of an individual. (Wadsworth)

3.) Humans, being a biological species are intrinsically motivated to grow intellectually or mentally by the process of organization, and adaptation, processes common to all organisms. (Wadsworth)

When looking at the elements for equipping children for school success, it is obvious that cognitive development processes plays an enormous role in building the necessary foundation needed for such success. Therefore, it is imperative for parents and early education professionals to know the stages of cognitive development, nurture them and help students make smooth transition through each stage.

It can asserted that Piaget believed that in order for children to reach their full potential, early childhood professional must know and respect not only the developmental stages of child development, but the stages of cognitive development as well. They must use this knowledge to create environments that are child friendly and allow children to build from their prior knowledge and experiences. If this is done properly, students will transition through each of Piaget's stages of development with ease to experience optimal success throughout their academia and beyond. To achieve this, education professionals must reevaluate their roles as teachers; one who serves a moderator of learning and not the source of learning.

In a 2011 issue of American Educator, there is an article entitled "The Economics of Inequality: The Value of Early Childhood Education" by James J. Heckman. The article discusses the educational equity of early childhood education and how it directly influences adult outcomes. Heckman, who is a professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, believes that the economy and the American workforce is a representation of early childhood programs or the lack thereof. His work has been focused on "providing resources to disadvantaged children and their families in an attempt to equalize the children's possibilities for social and economic success." While the term "disadvantaged" is a bit ambiguous, one might draw conclusions that low-income and single parent families feel the brunt of this issue. "Intact families invest greater amounts in their children than do single parent families, although the exact reasons why are not known." A number of factors contribute to this ongoing problem. While no excuses are being made, low-income and single parent families are faced with personal (relationships, financial woes, etc.) and outside entities (work, school, etc.) that interfere with the development of their children's cognitive, social and character abilities. Heckman hopes he can change this by taking the focus off the parent and putting it on the child. He believes that "inequity in the resources families have to properly develop their children's potential" should be addressed appropriately.

Families are oblivious to the type of resources that are available to them to aid in the advancement of their child. Mentoring is an alternative that many families rarely utilize. A mentor is a person who serves as a role model to adequately guide and assist children in conquering their full potential. This can be a teacher, team coach, counselor, and neighbor or community member. Mentors are much needed in a time where single-parent families, abuse and poverty are prevalent. When a child has access to a reliable, present adult to whom they have a strong withstanding relationship with, the benefits are endless.

In a Child Trends newsletter published in 2002, there is an article titled "Mentoring: A Promising Strategy



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