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“Here’s another idea.  Have college days in school.” That was from last week’s column, and as children approach their junior and senior year, we need to be sure that many of them know why college is important, what SAT and ACT mean and if they want to be successful, taking those tests will make it easier to be the next Hillary, Obama or McCain.  Parents and teachers need to be sure we are listening to what’s important, and more important, realizing what we do today, and how we present the future is how many of our children will see it.

Last week I talked about “college days.”  Some of you may wonder what the impact of something like this would have in school. Well think about how it’s packaged.  We all want part of the American Dream. If we place an expectation on what it takes to get that, and follow this up with some measure of how to get it, we might be more successful at reaching some of our kids who are also students. We need to demand our kids get what they deserve, but first they must realize they deserve it. College should be an expectation not a privilege.

College provides privilege.  Privilege can be defined in many ways. It could be a home in the suburbs, a new car, a vacation in Hawaii, cell phone with unlimited minutes, season tickets to your favorite football or basketball team. Privilege could also be not having to wait in line, having the best food on the menu served to you, or simply being called Mr. or Miss with your last name. I can’t define success for all of you, but I do know that many of these so-called privileges can begin with a college degree. The principal issue facing many of us is how we get young people to see the value of this in a way they understand that privileges are not entitlements.

One way to start this is give them tangible examples of what privileges look like. One way to do this is integrate something measurable for them to aspire. So here are some ideas we parents can suggest to your local schools. Remember, you are just as important in the education of your children as the people that sit behind a desk, or walk the hallways. Teachers can’t think of it all.  Suggest and follow up.

Have a college day at school! On this particular day, in your child’s school, have those students who plan to go to college dress as though they were going to a college interview. If they don’t know how, tell them. Here’s a time to begin the dialogue about college.  Tell them about its importance as you proceed to coach them in how they should dress. I’m sure everyone has a wardrobe that includes at least one ‘interview’ outfit. A collared shirt, pants with a belt that is worn on their waist. Find ways to reward these college dressed young men and women.

One reward could be when they go to the cafeteria, let them be first in line. It’s a proven fact, those who get a college degree will earn more, and therefore they will be first in line to buy BMWs, homes, flat screen TVs, New generation X-boxes. Let those who choose to dress for college get on and off the bus first. Remember, responsibility should earn one privilege.  Let them sit wherever they want to sit in class on that particular “college day.”
Parents of these kids can choose any number of ways to complement this behavior, an increase in allowance, a family dinner out. Let them miss a chore on that day, or do the chore for them. Administrators can invite civic leaders or entrepreneurs on these days.  Make it an event!  Advertise it!!

I realize this is a revolutionary approach, but think about it this way…in a politically correct society, we are driven more by the mainstream than we are by common sense. With this common sense approach, what will happen is your sons and daughters will be able to more readily identify with others who have similar values, goals and aspirations. The peer pressure contaminates them in a good way, when they seem someone they think is cool doing something un-cool like thinking about how they are going to be able to provide for a family, get a car, or eat when mom and dad are gone.
Hold on…and for those of you who think, “what about the kids who want to go to college but can’t afford it?” If they realize the benefits they garner for aspiring to do this, maybe, just maybe they will ask someone how. On the other hand, maybe, and this is truly revolutionary, maybe some counselor, teacher, or mentor will ask them: “So you really want to go to college? Maybe I can help.”  Then you can see if you really want to make a difference…you certainly can!
Talk to the administrators about this, particularly if your son or daughter attends a school that bowed to the pressures of suburbanites who felt freedom of expression was more important than the realities of life. That’s why many schools don’t have uniforms. Not because of you and me who believe that clothes don’t necessarily make the man, but if we want to talk about equality, look where Obama and Edwards, Hillary and Oprah shop.

As far as college days are concerned, see if you can get the administrators to try it once or twice a month. And let them determine how often they might want to do this.  A novel idea would be to present the idea as a student government idea, if you think that more students would listen to their governing body than the administrators who they might view more like their parents.

Think about the impact such a revolutionary idea might have on schools. And the earlier you start this, the better.  There is no reason middle-school kids have to wait to high school to realize the importance of college. Start training them in elementary.  It’s easier then.  But don’t cast aside the high schoolers as beyond help.  Think about it, as boys become the men they see on the streets in their neighborhood. Present them a good image you men who are fathers.

“Making home too safe that our kids won’t leave won’t protect them when we’re gone.”

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