I heard a phrase recently that’s really resonated with me. Dave Ramsey, a New York Times Bestselling author and nationally syndicated radio host, said in his Financial Peace University series, “Change your family tree.” He was talking about changing the way we act with and how we think about money.
I think we can change our family trees in education, too.
My dad married a college graduate, while he, himself was not one. He was a hard working, blue collar man. Nothing wrong with that. But, at age 35, my dad went back to college, and graduated magna cum laude. Nothing wrong with that, either. Of his 12 siblings (11 biological and 1 foster) he was the ONLY one to go to college. In contrast, my mother and six of her eight siblings attended and graduated from college.
So, here are my family college statistics: on the side of the family where only my dad went to college: of 23 cousins, including my brother and me, six went to college. That’s 26%. Not included in the number are two cousins who are still in high school.
The percentage is doubled on my mom’s side of the family who were mostly college graduates. Out of 23 cousins, again including my brother and me, 57% graduated from college. Another two cousins attended trade school or started college but never finished.
Where am I going with this family history lesson? My dad changed his family tree. He went back to school and earned a degree. He showed my brother and me the value of higher learning. I was the impressionable age of twelve, my brother, ten.
The Chicago Tribune published eight essays on Chicago public education. The contributors were parents, teachers and students. The first essay in the article is written by G.A. Finch, a parent and the chair of Local School Council for Decatur Classical School. Mr. Finch writes, “The teachers, while important, aren’t the most significant factor in the Decatur children’s achievement. The parents emphasize education to their children. They work with the children on their homework and science, history, and Latin projects and enroll them in music lessons and chess club and support them in their science fair competitions.”
In other words, parent perspective and involvement changes the student’s success.
Parents change the family tree.
You can blame socioeconomic status or bad teachers or poor school districts if you want to, but ultimately, student academic success comes down to how mom and dad feel about education. That’s what matters. If we as parents emphasize the importance of education, even if the kids are kicking and screaming through homework and flashcard drills, they will eventually get it.
I have friends who are at (maybe even below) the poverty level whose children get it. Education is important. Their mom does not allow them to be mediocre.
I also have friends who are in the upper middle class whose kids are more concerned with how the waves are than how their grades are.
We parents have a lot to do. And parenting is tough. But be vigilant in communicating with your children the importance of being well educated, of excellence and not settling for average.
Then, perhaps, we will change our family trees.
Michelle Luce is a mother, teacher and a writer. She lives in Swansea, South Carolina.