How to teach children well

Plato said, “Education is teaching our children to desire the right things.” Since most of California’s schools continue to get Fs, Ds and Cs in their ratings with schools in other states, it could be that to some extent, we are teaching students to want the wrong things.

According to the survey company Wallet Hub, California has the ninth worst public schools in America.

However, there are some standout schools that ranked right at the top in a 2010 survey.

The best elementary school in California that year was Milikin School in the Santa Clara Unified School District. It ranked 999 out of 1,000 in the Academic Performance Index.

The 50th best elementary school in California was Cerritos Elementary of the ABC Unified School District in Los Angeles, with a ranking of 968 out of 1,000.

A careful search reveals no San Joaquin Valley elementary school with a ranking in the top 50.

Clovis Unified’s James S. Fugman elementary school ranked 87th among California elementary schools, with an API score of 961. It was the highest-ranking of the San Joaquin Valley elementary schools.

Valley Oak Elementary in Clovis Unified School District ranked 106th, with an API score of 958. No school in Madera County ranked in the top 200.

Could it be that our schools are not teaching our children to desire the right things? Could it be the parents aren’t teaching those values, either?

How about Respect, kindness, honesty, courage, perseverance, self-discipline, compassion, generosity, dependability?

How about a love of reading? How about arithmetic? How about U.S. and world history? How about English — and not just for immigrants?

How about moral values?

How about turning in cell phones to teachers while class is in session, unless it’s a class on how to use a cell phone.

How about modeling good values? One of the most important things, according to the web site Beyond Today, that you can do is set a good example for your children. They learn from seeing how you treat them, overhearing your interactions with others and observing what you do in different situations throughout the day.

If you want your children to exhibit values like honesty, self-respect and compassion, then you need to show these qualities yourself. All the teaching in the world can be undone if your children watch you behave in ways that contradict what you’ve said.

Your kids won’t think it’s important to persevere if you’re routinely giving up on diets or exercise programs, or quitting college classes when they get tough. They won’t think it’s important to follow through on commitments if you back out on organizing the church fundraiser or fail to take them to the zoo as you promised.

They won’t think there’s anything wrong with lying if they hear you tell your boss you’re sick when you just don’t want to go to work, or if the phone rings and you tell your child to tell the person that you’re not home.

Perhaps the parents of San Joaquin Valley school children aren’t doing their jobs. If they were, the schools would realize they need to raise their own standards.