Fear of pressure, fear of progress: Parents and schools hold kids back from being internationally competitive

I hear this from parents way too often:  I don’t want my children to be pushed too hard in the classroom.  I don’t want them to be upset by their schoolwork.  If I (the parent) have difficulty with the homework it is too hard.  I don’t know why my children need to know more than I did because I did fine.  I don’t want my children to have too much homework because it keeps them from being well-rounded.  And it’s not right to be comparing my children to those from other nations.

In other words:  I want the world to go back to the way it was in 1985.

But it’s not going to.  This is 2013 (at least for a few more days) and our kids are competing – and will continue to compete – with kids from Korea, Finland, Shanghai, Japan and Russia.  And there’s nothing we can do to turn back the clock.

Despite what some commentators – particularly some in the school choice movement – say, parents are not always right.  But convincing parents about the magnitude of the economic challenge facing their children – a challenge most parents did not experience and have trouble understanding – is critical.  And winning those parents over to the importance of a level of educational rigor that most grew up avoiding will be central to the economic futures of their children and our society.  

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