Cycle of broken culture

I was having a dinnertime conversation this evening, and to everyone’s surprise the “liberals” and “conservatives” were in agreement about the nature of the problem afflicting kids in our inner city schools, and the reason it is such a difficult problem to tackle.

The key was not to use loaded phrases like “cycle of poverty”. In the United States you don’t need money to succeed. Money helps, but it’s not the essential differentiator. Rather, you need a kind of inner fire and enough of a belief in the system that you’ll learn what you need to learn, and then apply those skills. Yes, this is more difficult during a recession, but the relative situation stays the same. The kid with the motivation and focus, who builds skills over time, is going to be more likely to succeed as he or she grows up.

But there is another phrase that we all could agree on — “cycle of broken culture”. If the parents have no faith in the system, and sees no point in their child entering that system, then the child is far more likely to reject the value system of skill building and achievement that the schools are trying to offer.

So what to do? You can’t tell a parent “You have bad parenting skills, and we are going to take your child away and make sure what is broken in you does not become broken in your child.” Yet to solve the problem of alienated parents producing alienated children who grow up to repeat the cycle, you must give children some exposure to other ways of being that their parents might not be offering them.

I think there are ways to frame practical approaches to this problem that will make equal sense to both liberals and conservatives. More later.

6 Responses to “Cycle of broken culture”

  1. Mari says:

    I think liberal or conservative, a child’s success is depending on parents’ attention… it’s tiring though, day in and day out :) but you have to do it…

  2. admin says:

    Yes, absolutely. The best thing you can have in life is a parent or parents who believe in you and encourage you to succeed.

    But if a parent doesn’t believe in even the possibility of their child succeeding — because that parent does not believe in even the idea of merit based success — do we as a society just write off that child? That’s the question I’m asking.

  3. Mari says:

    You mean, to do like the French system which sifts you early into your proper “metiĆ©r”? I sometimes don’t think it’s a bad idea, but it’s hard to make a mathematician/baker or computer scientist/Flamenco virtuoso like USA can :)

  4. Dagmar says:

    “The best thing you can have in life is a parent or parents who believe in you and encourage you to succeed.”

    That actually means, the best thing is you have a parent or parents who love you. I think this trust a child learns, when it is loved leads to what you call fire.

    Does being loved really depend on, if a parent believes in the idea of merit based success? I don’t know…

  5. Money can compensate for mistakes. Absence of money, means that you can believe whatever you want, but be unable to do anything about it. Do not underestimate the power of poverty to constrain behavior until you have experienced yourself.


  6. admin says:

    Sorry I wasn’t more clear Michael. I wasn’t proposing that this would be cost free. My post presupposed that a society would we willing to financially invest in its own economic future, by helping the economic potential of its own children. What better use of tax dollars could there be, after all?

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