(1) The Problem With Fulfilling Academic Potential
(2) The Problem With Fulfilling Academic Potential (Part 2)
Actually, somebody else beat me to writing up her plan to develop a Future Ready Child, and she put her thoughts down very eloquently HERE. I felt encouraged just reading her wisdom so clearly stated. For me, in this blogpost, I would like to address some classic patterns in parent-teen relationships and how one might manage the relationship in such a way as to create a continuity between the truths of the past and the truths yet to be.
Lee Kuan Yew's Hard Truths
With all due respect to Lee Kuan Yew, a man to whom I and many others owe a lifetime debt of deep gratitude, he made the mistake of assuming that the truths of his lifetime would continue to be the truths of our lifetimes. To preserve his legacy, he instituted robust socialization programs that would ensure that every politician he inducted... every civil servant he invested, would hold in their heads the mental models of his hard truths. I am not saying that his hard truths have become totally irrelevant... but the world has changed and the external contours of his hard truths no longer fit as well without some adaptation.
For example, meritocracy was (and IS) an important value but past interpretations of meritocracy involved looking solely upon academic results as a proxy indicator for merit. That worked in the past because ...
(1) MOE did not expect parents to teach kids at home
(2) Academic standards had not risen so high that children have bandwidth for little else except studying (leading to huge lacunae in character and values development)
In view of the above 2 conditions, the contours of how we interpret meritocracy within our society needs to change. We cannot afford to define merit in terms of pure academic performance anymore because academic scores now reflect Parentocracy (the ability of parents to teach kids at home)... and since parents now have to teach numeracy and literacy, they have no time to teach values and character. Lee Kuan Yew was too successful at socializing the sacrosanctness of Meritocracy into those who inherited his mantle. Meritocracy was not to be at all questioned... not even its external contours. As a result, the leaders trained at Lee Kuan Yew's knee missed a new Hard Truth staring them in the faces.
The Daughter and I
I don't know where I obtained the insight from. I just knew when I woke up one day that I must not assume that my values (in the form I hold dear) would take the same shape in her time. I suppose that was a bit of God breathed wisdom that came to me in the night. Anyhow, I knew needed to give my teenager space to interpret our family's values sensibly for the world she evolves in... amongst her friends... in an environment alien to me... which I increasingly lost track of as she grew up and went to places I could not go... met people I did not know.
So I sat her down and gave her permission to challenge me. I explained that the world as I knew it isn't the world that she knows, and that if I preached something that made no sense, she should challenge me. As a Mommy, I cannot help preaching. By giving her permission to challenge my wisdom, I opened a way to bridge my world and hers. It was our first step towards the equal footing she and I enjoy today. Slowly, I began to understand her challenges and her world... and increasingly, I saw the sense of how she approached and handled issues in ways that I would not at first have agreed with. Sometimes, she didn't bother to explain nor challenge me. She went ahead to do what she thought best and then she explained after. I accepted that too.
She started a business delivering supper to other kids in her hostel. I believed that she was undercharging and could not accept that she would put in so much time into a business that only just broke even. After all, the value of a profit-driven business is in the money it makes.
She explained... and I saw that it made sense in her context. And that was that.
I am happy that she has developed keen judgment about her context, and I am even happier that she stays true to the values of our family, but in a way that makes sense to her and her world.