I was introduced to this book back in 2003 by my then principal. He used it as a guidebook to make sure students were getting their educational needs met. I agree with a lot of the principals in it because they are sound devices for intellectual development. It’s not anti-modern, not anti-technology. It’s a theoretical foundation to guide parents. I am going to defend this book.
It’s a hefty hunk of idealism, not without its critics. The author, William J. Bennet, is a former Secretary of Education. He was in the news some years back on account of his gambling addiction and other peccadilloes. So he gambles. Does that mean he doesn’t know anything about how to educate children? Michael Jackson is a child molester. His concerts sell out even though he has not been musically viable for over a decade now. You can be a snob and turn your nose up at this guy and his book, but that would be stupid and ignorant. A reviewer on www.amazon.com called Bennet, et. als. views "elitist". So it’s elitist. So what? It glorifies Western Civilization. er…that’s where we live, isn’t it? It’s not anti-universal. It’s pro-America and the literary culture that has brought us to where we are, for better or worse.
One of the clear messages of this book is that parents should ask questions, be interested and active in their child’s education: learn to discern good from mediocre teachers, make them read, and read with them. It provides helpful lists — not dogma — ADVICE. You’re free to take it or not. You don’t even have to read the whole book from cover to cover. Take from it what you need. It’s a reference book, not a novel. Parents should educate themselves in the education of their children. As a parent, just like a classroom teacher, you can’t teach what you don’t know. If you are afraid of mythology or philosophy, you might pass that fear on to your kids and that’s just wrong. TEC is not just about making sure your child is educated enough to hold their own intellectually, it’s about active parenting.
TEC provided me my professional mantra for teaching writing: Scribendo disces scribere: By writing, you learn to write. It underscores every lesson that I teach. It has helped me be more conscientious about how and what I teach. There is a problem with this philosophy, though. It puts me completely and utterly at odds with the testing frenzy mentality that is strangling public school education. TEC used to be what public school was like back before the data junkies took over everything.
When I finished reading the chapters on what 6th, 7th, and 8th graders should know, I felt a lot better about my ideas for teaching. I’m an old-fashioned idealist where education is concerned, even though I love, love, love using technology. This book validated many of my ideas. Other books will come and go, glorifying, deifying, demonizing, and prophesy-ing, but this book is for educating human children. Not overstimulated, socially crippled, techno-fixated, test-taking trendoids.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE EDUCATED CHILD:
- "You are your child’s most important teacher."
- "Early Moral Training"
- "Social Skills"
- "Ten Signs of A Good School"
- "How important is penmanship?"
- "What is the place of Western Literature in the classroom?"
- Questions to ask the teacher
- Teaching core subjects at home
- "Is memorization outdated?"
Children who are good readers in school tend to come from homes that are print-rich environments. There’s newspapers, magazines, kiddie books, whatever. They are within reach and they get discussed. Good readers tend to come from parents who are readers. When children see parents reading, talking about reading, shopping for books and magazines, it shows the child that that is an acceptable way to live. They see it as normal and accept it mostly unquestioningly. They don’t notice discrepancies until they come in contact with non-readers. The reason for non-readers is the same, but in reverse. Parents don’t read or they read garbage. They don’t care about it, don’t talk about it, or worse — verbally nullify it. They might even ridicule the child if he/she shows an affinity towards reading. (Those parents should be horsewhipped, btw.)
I was lucky. In my house, my parents had bookshelves in their closet. It was full of paperbacks, my dad’s college books, a set of Collier’s encyclopedias (remember those?) and mom’s high school yearbooks. Every room in the house had books in it — bathroom and kitchen included. And since our town was very boring and summers were long, guess what we did all day. We sat looking at page after page of storybooks, dictionaries, the encyclopedias, comics, Readers’ Digest, my mom’s Harlequin romances and dad’s car and gun magazines — anything to pass the time. When my siblings and I got to school, we could talk about anything you threw at us. We were always in the highest reading level of our grade. We lived "The Educated Child". My parents were on a first name basis with most of my teachers all during my school years. They knew each other from high school. I wasn’t thrilled about it as a kid, but it made me check my behavior more often than not.
That’s what this book is about. Don’t raise ignorant children. You ruin the environment when you do. The ignorant, uneducated, and anti-intellectual damage society as a whole by their barbarism. Don’t let "elitism" keep you from doing what’s right. Don’t let the author’s human failings keep you from seeing the truth of his words. Harold Bloom writes in Where Shall Wisdom Be Found: "Societal pressures and journalistic fashions may obscure these standards for a time, but …The mind always returns to its needs for beauty, truth, and insight."