Children with educated parents would naturally be more successful in school and the workplace, right? This is simply not true. Although education may be emphasized by these parents, the child has to be motivated on their own inorder to see results. As we’ve observed, children in less supportive environments, where education is not a priority, tend to be more self-motivated. This “grit” is not displayed by the children of college alumni. Likewise, many parents who have attended college believe sending their child to private school will set them up for success. This actually has the opposite effect. Receiving a private education can hinder the child’s ability to adapt to the real world.
It’s very hard to succeed in school or work without grit. There is much disagreement regarding which students have grit and which ones do not. Some believe that second generation college students are more driven than disadvantaged students, whose parents never had the option of attending college. This belief stems from the idea that students who grow up in a household with educated caregivers will be influenced to go on and pursue a career. In some cases, this holds true but is surely not a rule of thumb. A study done on students at Curtin University attempted to demonstrate that students who were not the first in their family to go to college displayed more grit. “In qualitative responses, students were most commonly motivated by a desire for personal development, career aspirations, and family. Grit was found to positively correlate to parents’ educational attainment, and to students who were not first in the family to attend university”, Cathay Cupitt with Semantic Scholar explains. It’s important to acknowledge that the student stating they are motivated is very different than actually demonstrating this motivation in the real world. Surely these students were motivated to attend college, but not for the same reason as the disadvantaged students. In many financially stable areas, attending college is a social must. These second generation students are often attending college solely because that’s what’s expected of them. Considering this, it makes sense that these students’ grit was seen to correlate to their parents’ educational achievements.
On the other hand, the first generation college students from less stable backgrounds are going to college with hope of turning around their situation. They’ve already witnessed what poverty and lack of support can do to a family. These students will not let the challenges they face hinder their educational career because they’ve already overcome so many. Meanwhile, the second generation students do not have the same motives. Special awards and scholarships are given to “legacies” or students who attend a college or university after their family member. This makes it more likely that these second generation students will continue their education, not because they have grit, but because they’re predispositioned to. Essentially, being a second generation college student isn’t a true indication of grit, until proven otherwise. The only thing this status demonstrates is that the individual most likely had a less challenging, more supported upbringing.
Commonly, parents who have graduated college and value education send their children to private schools. They believe this exclusive education will guide them down the right path for entering college. Unfortunately, enrolling students in private school most oftenly has an adverse effect. Many private school students will graduate without obtaining any “real world” experience and lacking skills that will aid them in college and beyond.
When exploring the effects of a private versus public education, the findings of the WISE program cannot be ignored. WISE was designed as an experiential learning experience for high school students to get exposure to STEM. Initially, the program was only offered to private school students in Virginia. Later, they opened this opportunity up to public school students, as well. Right off the bat, there were big differences in the experience that the public and private school students had. For example, the private schools implementing WISE had more specialized staff members available to help. Also, public schools were not able to provide summer research opportunities since the majority of students held part-time jobs. Despite the obvious advantages the private school students had, both groups were equally successful at the end of the course.
How does this demonstrate that a public education can be more beneficial than a private one? The answer lies in the drastic difference in opportunity. Private school WISE participants were given more aid throughout the corresponding weeks than the public school students. Despite this, they were able to be just as successful within the program as the private school participants. The WISE program emulates the biggest issue with private education. The private students were given every chance to soar above the public students, and they did not. “At the private school, the students are enrolled in a research course and participate in WISE as a cohort with a teacher who provides feedback on the students’ presentations, reviews their journals weekly, visits the students in their research lab and intervenes if necessary to resolve issues between a mentor and student or faculty and student,” the several authors of “Realities of Mentoring High School Students from Inner City Public Schools vs. Private Schools in STEM Research at an R1 University” explain. Over time, private school students become used to having these privileges and fail to use them to their advantage. Perhaps the public school students had to work harder and more diligently to make this program fit into their lifestyle, considering they did not receive the same aid.
It’s very counterintuitive to think that well educated parents and a private education can hurt a child’s chances of success. It’s not the direct effect of these two factors, rather the second hand effects that are so detrimental. Students growing up in what may be seen as an unfavorable environment may experience positive long term effects.