We work with elementary, middle school, and high school underprivileged and under-represented students and their families. These students frequently attend under-funded, low-ranked schools with high levels of teacher turnover and emergency-credentialed teachers. The scarcity of academic support, informal and formal mentorship and role models within friend and family networks exacerbate the educational challenges facing these students. As a result, these students are underrepresented in higher education, most notably in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). In this context, parents, professional engineers, university engineering students, and high-tech companies are under-utilized resources for improving students’ STEM engagement and building a sustainable support structure.
Urie Bronfenbrenner – a Russian American psychologist, known for developing his Ecological Systems Theory and co-founder of the Head Start program puts it eloquently in his book – Two worlds of childhood, U.S and U.S.S.R.
Parent’s perspective on managing the child’s education in addition to everything else
“In today’s world parents find themselves at the mercy of a society which imposes pressures and priorities that allow neither time nor place for meaningful activities and relations between children and adults, which downgrade the role of parent and the functions of parenthood, and which prevent the parent from doing things he wants to do as a guide, friend, and companion to his children.
The frustrations are greatest for the family of poverty where the capacity for human response is crippled by hunger, cold, filth, sickness and despair. No parent who spends his days in search of menial work, and his nights in keeping the rats away from the crib can be expected to find the time – let alone the heart – to engage in constructive activities which his children or serve as a stable source of love and discipline. The fact that some beleaguered parents manage to do so is a tribute to them, but not to the society in which they live.
For families who can get along, the rats are gone, but the rat race remains. The demands of a job, or often two jobs, that claim mealtimes, evenings, and weekends as well as days, the trips and moves necessary to get ahead or simply hold one’s own; the even increasing time spent on commuting, evenings out, social and community obligations – all the things one has to do to meet so-called primary responsibilities – produce a situation in which a child often spends more time with a passive babysitter than a participating parent.
Children need people in order to become human.
And even when the parent is at home, a compelling force cuts off communication and response among the family members. Although television could, if used creatively, enrich the activities of children and families, it now only undermines them. Like the sorcerer of old, the television set casts its magic spell, freezing speech and action and turning the living into silent statues so long as the enchantment lasts. The primary danger of the television screen lies not so much in the behavior it produces as the behavior it prevents – the talks, the games, the family festivities and arguments through which much of the child’s learning takes place and his character is formed. Turning on the television set can turn off the process that transforms children into people.
In our modern way of life children are deprived not only of parents but of people in general. A host of factors conspire to isolate children from the rest of society. The fragmentation of the extended family, the separation of residential and business areas, the disappearance of neighborhoods, zoning ordinances, occupational mobility, child labor laws, the abolishment of the apprentice system, consolidated schools, television, separate patterns of social life for different age groups, the working mother, the delegation of child care to specialists – all these manifestations of progress operate to decrease opportunity and incentive for meaningful contact between children and persons older, or younger than themselves.
And here we confront a fundamental and disturbing fact: Children need people in order to become human. The fact is fundamental because it is firmly grounded both in scientific research and in human experience. It is disturbing because the isolation of children from adults simultaneously threatens the growth of the individual and the survival of the society.
The young cannot pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. It is primarily through observing, playing, and working with others older and younger than himself that a child discovers both what he can do and who he can become – that he develops both his ability and his identity. It is primarily through exposure and interaction with adults and children of different ages that a child acquires new interests and skills and learns the meaning of tolerance, cooperation, and compassion. Hence to relegate children to a world of their own is to deprive them of their humanity and ourselves as well.”