Who Decides What?: How Family Institutions Play a Role in Educational Paths

It seemed like when I was younger, my brother and I would always be late for school. After a hectic morning due to oversleeping, disorganization and the never ending search to find my left shoe, we managed to get to school in the nick of time (Thanks to my father running a couple of stop signs). No matter how late we were to school my father always managed to squeeze in his daily “I love you” and inspirational quotes. Some days my father would look through the rear view mirror and say to us, “Try to make an ‘A’ today. And if you can’t make an ‘A’, make a ‘B’. But if you can’t make a ‘B’, well at least try to have a good day.”  With that in mind I would head into school with my Barbie backpack, Hello Kitty lunch box, and my head held high, ready to make an ‘A’.

One day, I did very well in school. I couldn’t wait to get in the car and tell my father about the “A” I made. Greeted by my father’s warm hello, I would eagerly respond about the good news. “Hey, that’s great!” He said, “Now tell me about something new you learned.” To this question I had no response. I knew I learned something new that day, but I couldn’t particularly remember what. My father would answer my silence with “Come on, now. Don’t tell me you didn’t learn anything. If that’s the case we need to turn around and take you back to school.”

As I got older, my father would reward my brother and I with money for good grades. A’s were worth $2, B’s were $1 and C’s didn’t count at all, but if you had a D or F, not only would you get one of his long lectures, but you would also have to owe him money. All quarter long I would work my hardest because I knew in the end, the better I did, the greater my reward would be.


Morpheus from The Matrix weknowmemes.com

After reading Louis Menand’s Live and Learn, I would often relate back to father’s methods with questions. If my father wanted me to ultimately learn something new, why didn’t he just tell me to do so. And why at the end of each quarter did he ask us for report cards, rather than book reports? Why did he have to bribe us with money to do well in school? My father’s methods didn’t just keep me on my toes academically, but also instilled a competitive nature in me at an early age. Continue reading