In 1985, President Ronald Reagan and his administration released a report titled “A Nation at Risk”. This report highlighted some general issues with the infrastructure of America throughout, but it ended with an unexpected and quite damning statement. It warns, “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves” (Berenstein 46). In its metaphorical critique of American academic performance, this announcement served as a call for change. But a change in what? While many are quick to place blame on the American school system alone, they fail to acknowledge the common people’s failure. The report is right: we the people have failed, not the government. But why have we failed? The parents of our nation are not doing their job and the people are not doing anything about it. America is in need of parenting changes because of the popular usage of questionable parenting strategies, the non fulfillment of the linkage between parenting quality and academic performance, and the large scale relationship between parenting and the economic performance of our nation.
To get to the bottom of America’s productivity threat, it is appropriate to start at the origin of it all: parents and their strategies. A very popular form of parenting in the United States is known as “helicopter parenting”. This parenting style gets its name from parents who practically hover over their children. Children who live with strict parenting like this show anxiety, depression, and demotivation in a study conducted by the Florida State University (“Reports”). Many parents in the United States drain their children’s sense of control and autonomy in an effort to keep them safe. Kids across the nation, however, feel trapped and unable to think for themselves as their self-worth decays. While this may seem overdramatic or opinionated, it is backed up by studies. It is okay to care for and overprotect children as a parent of a young child, but this should not continue into teenage years. Teenagers will only try to rebel more when they feel like they are being controlled. Not only is there a direct relationship between perceived control, competence, and autonomy, but autonomy directly impacts a child’s self-worth and academic achievement (Weist). When a parent grants autonomy and freedom to their children within reason, their children will feel more confident and independent. Not only does this confidence improve grades, but independence will enable a child to have an easier adjustment to the responsibilities of adult life.
There are certain nations whose parenting norms are certainly healthier than America’s standards. Finland is especially relevant to the conversation considering the average levels of helicopter parenting in Finland are much lower than America’s (“Reports”). Yet Finland is the highest-performing country academically in the world. The direct correlation between autonomy and academic performance can be seen through Finland’s rather relaxed parenting style yet high resulting academic performance. Parents in Finland accept their role as insurers of their child’s journey to college and avoid other intrusions of privacy. Even students who attend public and poorly funded schools in Finland, Norway, and Poland have amazing academic performance (Camera). This serves as further evidence that parenting, not the school system, is largely to blame. John Marsh from the Wilson Quarterly critiques American parenting, stating “Children overall don’t value education because their parents don’t teach them the value of it, which is why they fail.” Marsh continues, saying, “The school systems based on local school boards turned this country into a global superpower on the strength of parents who worked with their kids to make sure they acquired a solid education.” Finland has schools that are regulated on a local scale, which gives parents more of a responsibility to remain active in their children’s academic lives (Marsh). Much of Finland and other countries’ reputation of being education powerhouses can perhaps be accredited to the parents’ greater respect to their child’s privacy.
Social background has a large influence on how a child will perform in the world, and parenting quality is a part of this background. It is common knowledge among many education experts that social background has a huge impact on academic performance. There is as much as a 20 percent performance difference between a student with a poor social background compared to a student with a good social background, even when they have the same level of intelligence (“Study”). While there are many factors that play into what is known as someone’s social background, a large portion of this is how much nurturing and care a child retrieves. Care and attention is entirely a parent’s job, so it can be inferred that parents carry a huge role in how a student’s social background is rated. There are students that perform well despite a poor social background by their country’s standards. Resilient students in Korea, Shanghai, and Singapore have a 70 percent resilience rate, while those of the U.S. have a rate of below 3 percent (“Study”). Across the board, social backgrounds of students seem to show less of an impact on academic performance in other countries, likely because the lower-income families have higher academic standards.
Parenting in America is underperforming so badly that schools have gradually had to assume responsibilities that parents once had. School programs like driving education, sex education, music, and vocal skills are things that should be left to parents to teach their children (Berenstein 47). As a matter of fact, these are the jobs that parents were expected to do for many years. It is just recently that these things have been added to the curriculum. John L. Hasten from The Wilson Quarterly says, “How can we hold the schools and teachers responsible for a result that the student (and the student’s parents) had no personal investment in” (Marsh)? John makes a good point, exposing the lack of parental engagement in the lives of students. Parents like to complain about the school system, but they never look at themselves and realize how much they neglect the needs of their own children.
As a result of poor parenting and therefore educational struggles, children today are growing up to have serious problems in the world. Millennials today struggle financially. They often neglect to create an emergency fund and making big purchases like a home. A problem that plagues many young adults is student debt. They also face the problem of saving up for retirement plans. In comparison, they are much worse than Gen Xers, of which 80 percent have already locked down a retirement plan. And when it comes to financial planning, late baby boomers are mediocre with only 51 percent having a 3-year financial plan or longer. Early baby boomers, however, are the most financially stable. 60 percent of them claimed that they could shell out 10,000 dollars for an emergency without worries. A whopping 33 percent of all millennials have student debt and 40 percent of millennials feel financially overwhelmed. Overall, this data shows a gradual worsening of financial situations between generations. Recent generations like Gen Z have parents that are Gen Xers. It is very probable that this negative trend will continue and get worse and worse as time goes on. There is a striking connection between the financially mediocre late baby boomers along with millennials struggling today, as late boomers are mostly parents of millennials. This can further support the idea of parents having an impact on economic performance of kids.
Finally, as people progress through childhood and college and into their first career, they begin contributing to the economy. But this contribution is not what it once was. According to Dale Jorgenson, a Harvard professor, “The larger contribution of labor was driven entirely by the contribution of workers with a college degree,” he continues, saying, “The economy is shifting toward educationally intensive industries, it is important to take this into account when constructing medium-term projections of labor productivity and GDP growth.” Dale also found that labor productivity and aggregate value growth added in mid-2016 are below the average from 1995-2015 (Jorgenson). Industries that require higher education generally contribute more to the economic wellbeing and are more successful. However, these valuable industries are declining because there are fewer and fewer people entering career paths that require higher education. In response to recent testing scores by high schoolers and observing the declining economy, Mr. Michael Davidson, Senior Analyst at OECD says “I think the price of this is huge. We know that underachievement costs the economy a significant amount of money. And tackling that underachievement is not just for the education system but for the economy and society at large” (“Study”). The infrastructure of the economy is starting to crumble because there are fewer and fewer adults who have the experience to enter major industries which require education. Parents are failing to emphasize the importance of education to their children and in turn their children have poor academic performance and struggle to enter valuable industries..
Many will turn to the statistic that, during the first quarter of 2019, the growth rate of the economy overall was 3.2 percent which exceeded expectations. Not only this, but wage gains were amazing. President Donald Trump was very pleased with the way the economy performed that time of year (“Economy”). It is now the fourth quarter of 2019, and the economy is still performing well under Trump’s administration. If one only looks at the big picture but fails to focus on what is going on behind the scenes, the economy will look very healthy. Many people think that the economy is doing well because all they do is look at general numbers.
Large companies like Jeff Bezos’ Amazon that contribute greatly to the wellbeing of the economy were built on tax avoidance. As of 2014, Amazon was only taxed for their business in 20 states. Amazon has exploited a loophole in the law of the United States since its conception. In 2012, over 11 billion dollars in taxes were not paid by online retail sites, so Amazon is not the only one. While Amazon certainly pays more taxes than they used to, they are still avoiding a lot (Tehrani). Their schemes still run rampant in Trump’s America, where the law still allows this behavior to this day. Jeff Bezos and other CEOs get extremely rich on this abuse of the system. Before their divorce, Jeff Bezos and his wife owned 140 billion dollars of the Amazon company. Just from their divorce, His wife MacKenzie became one of the richest women in the world (“Divorce”). Today, rich CEOs like Jeff Bezos with big companies perform well in the economy, but they are a misrepresentation of how things are actually going. They cheat the system in a way that strictly benefits those at the top and makes lower classes suffer. The performance of large companies is actually not as good as what shows in the numbers, because there is a lot of deception and manipulation of the law.
In conclusion, the power and influence that something like a parenting approach can impact something seemingly unrelated like the economy and the wellbeing of the country. A simple strategy can change how a student performs in school and how they perform as an adult. The United States of America as we know it is facing a crisis among many other crises. With controversial subjects such as politics, global warming, gender, and race seeming so dominant right now, many people neglect something that has a huge effect on everyone’s well being. That something is parenting. As a nation, we must pay just as much attention to the wellbeing and development of our kids as we do to other issues. It is urgent that Americans get together and dwell on what they are doing. It is entirely possible that they are subconsciously neglecting the needs of their kids. Let them be reminded that they have one of the most important jobs in the world.