Value This More Than That

Grades count for something. Test schools reveal helpful insights. And you have to send your kids to school…it’s the law. The math is pretty clear on the value of a college education these days and kids who don’t graduate from high school are at an enormous disadvantage in life.

As parents, we have to figure out how to hold these assumptions simultaneously with the reality that school doesn’t matter that much and it never has. There’s always been a big difference between schooling and education. What’s counted in life is rarely learned in the classroom, and the people that make the biggest differences in this world so often seem to have gotten very little out of being in one.

We talked recently about the impact that Susan Wright had on her two young boys, Orville and Wilbur, by tolerating their ‘projects’ and in fact, preserving all of them, no matter how minor or messy. As it happens, she and her husband were very much on the same page. David McCullough explains in his book The Wright Brothers that Bishop Wright gave his boys a lot of space to explore and experiment, too.

“Between formal education at school and informal education at home,” McCullough writes, “it would seem he put more value on the latter. He was never overly concerned about his children’s attendance at school. If one or the other of them chose to miss a day or two for some project or interest he thought was worthy, it was all right. And certainly he ranked reading as worthy.”

So the boys missed some school but they read a lot of books. They missed some classes but they made the world their classroom. They were learning to trust their instincts, to follow projects through to conclusion and to lead their own education. And it was the space their mother and father gave them to do this that would change their lives…and the world.

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