Measuring Success

Dear Reader,

I saw this article in Harvard Magazine. It summarizes some research which basically says that children who are in small kindergarten classes with good teachers see benefits even into adulthood. Apparently, earlier studies showed benefits which seems to peter out in middle school. But new evidence shows that while this seems true, the benefits appear again later in life. The study’s authors attribute this not to specific academic skills but to the social and life skills the students learned from their kindergarten teachers. This includes things like how to study, manners and discipline.

I have a couple of thoughts based on this article. The first is that it need not alarm us homeschoolers. It compares children in one kind of kindergarten versus another and says nothing about those who are home-schooled or attend no kindergarten. I would think that a diligent, involved homeschooling parent would produce similar results. Certainly the small class size is there. I guess there should be encouragement here to not stress the academics too much in the early years but to make sure to teach manners, discipline and life skills early on as well.

The biggest thing that struck me, though, was how they measured success. It is financial. The study found that each student in an excellent class earned $1000 more per year on average. I understand that money is an easily measurable thing. I don’t know how else the study would have measured success. But it is not my measure of success. There is a lot more that I want for my kids as they grow into adulthood than a particular income level. And I think that often studies are this way. They measure something and tell you its value, but you have to wonder what they are really measuring and why. For example. we often hear the dread news that women still in this day and age earn less than men. But I always wonder if the women care. Undoubtedly some do. But for the majority, are they unhappier than men because they earn less? Or do they recognize that they have made choices, trade-offs that have put them where they are today? And maybe even though there is less money they are happy with those trade-offs.

Even happiness though is not the criteria we should be using. Our society is built upon the pursuit of happiness. But this is not God’s goal for us. His goal for us is holiness. How do we measure that? It can be seen in outward actions, but I don’t believe it can be measured that way. Good deeds can be done for right or wrong reasons so our outward observance of them tells us very little about the state of another’s heart. I guess the real answer is that since we cannot see into another’s heart, we cannot measure holiness or love for God and neighbor in it. And so we cannot measure true success. So we fall back on things we can measure like happiness and wealth and even good deeds.



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