Mazzuca: Education begins at home, focusing on values, rather than facts (column) | VailDaily.com

Mazzuca: Education begins at home, focusing on values, rather than facts (column)

Butch Mazzuca
Valley Voices

Editor's note: Find a cited version of this column at http://www.vaildaily.com.

William Burroughs once wrote, "The aim of education is the knowledge, not of facts, but of values." Which begs the question, does the American education system create the space where differing philosophies are presented and collide, where a wide variety of viewpoints are welcomed and where students, especially those in higher education, are allowed to debate and test opposing theories and philosophies?

Consider the following: A National Association of Scholars study indicates the ratio of liberal to conservative college professors now stands at 13:1.

Meanwhile, two of the top 50 organizational contributors to political causes during the 2016 presidential election year were the American Teachers Union (ninth largest) and the National Education Association (11th largest), which, when combined, contributed $63 million to democrats and liberal causes.

In an age when the vast majority of college professors admittedly embrace a liberal ideology and 99 percent of the teachers' union donations go to liberal causes, how can we ensure that our young people are exposed to ideas and concepts that widen and not constrict their horizons?

I believe the vast majority of educators want their charges to be open-minded, but at the same time, I suspect the liberal orthodoxy of academia can't help but rub off on our kids.

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I've long believed education begins in the home, and as parents, we have a myriad of responsibilities regarding our progeny. Certainly, teaching manners, etiquette and grooming are important, but like the biblical parable, we serve our children far better when we focus on teaching them "how to fish" so they can become self-reliant and prosper after they leave the warmth of the parental hearth.

Too often, children are taught to be quiet and dutiful when we should be trying to develop expressive and open-minded little personalities.

And the surest way to have interesting children is to be interested in them as human beings, not just in their grades or the cleanliness of their rooms.

Years ago, I came across a philosophy about education that actually does focus on values, rather than facts.

The first tenet of this approach to education is the view that the ultimate responsibility for a young person's success or failure in life lies with the individual, and it's the level of a young person's self-confidence that ultimately determines the level of his or her success … academically, athletically, interpersonally and, most certainly later in life, economically.

This philosophy also embraces the notion that the key to building self-confidence is to first help our kids develop positive attitudes.

Children come into this world filled with a sense of curiosity, merriment and inquisitiveness, and it's a parent's job to cultivate these natural attributes. In fact, we can even make the process enjoyable.

Kids are the most naturally curious little learning machines the Lord has created, and we as parents need to use this "leverage" to everyone's advantage. And when young people have a positive attitude, it's a lot easier for parents to teach them about their individual importance and identify their unique talents and abilities.

So, too, parents must teach their children how to make wise choices, i.e., choices that are in their own best interests. And a practical way to accomplish this is by using this simple equation: actions equal consequences, both positive and negative.

Parents also need to demonstrate how repeated efforts toward accomplishing a worthy goal or ideal (positive habit building) will bring success over time.

At the same time, thinking outside the box is a very critical component of a liberal education (I use the term liberal in its classical sense), and thinking outside the box is a lot easier for children when everything and anything is possible, so why not use this naturally eager-to-learn attitude to help our children think creatively?

And, lastly, kids must be taught the benefits of persistence, i.e., the age-old adage of try, try again. A tall order? Perhaps, but the benefits are surely worth the effort.

Quote of the day: "Education is what remains after we've forgotten what we learned in school." — Albert Einstein.

Butch Mazzuca, of Edwards, writes occasionally for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at bmazz68@comcast.net.