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Education Does Not Equal Wisdom
I don't normally read People magazine. In fact, I don't think I've read an entire one through except perhaps once or twice when I was particularly desperate during a long colour treatment at the hairdresser.

But this particular issue I read a few days ago. It's from a few months back, but it focuses on Jaycee Dugard, and my aunt, who has probably read fewer People magazines than me, gave it to me because we think that Jaycee is our fourth cousin. We haven't contacted her or anything because she's getting inundated with it right now, but we're obviously interested. And she's the spitting image of one of my cousins.

So I did actually read this People magazine. And in it I found some interesting vignettes I want to share with you that illustrate something important: education does not equal wisdom.

The story on Jaycee was really intriguing. They didn't go into detail about what she endured (which was appropriate; no one needs to know that stuff). But what is clear is that she was taken at the age of 11 in grade 5. She never went to school again. Her two daughters, who are now 15 and 11, have never been to school at all. Yet they have tutors now trying to help them regain lost time, and what they've found is that the daughters are doing really well. The one is testing at the level of a high school senior.

Jaycee didn't let her daughters be photographed for the article (also appropriate), but think about that for a minute: she's 14 years old and she's given birth, and what does she do? She takes motherhood seriously, because obviously she taught the girls everything she could, even though she herself was a child at the time. She got a hold of books so that they could read. And the article also noted that Jaycee had become a very good cook. So there she was, in a horrifying situation, with no real help, and yet she raised her daughters well and with some common sense.

Fast forward a few pages and there's another story, this one extremely distasteful, to put it mildly. Emma Niederbrock was a teenager, the daughter to Debra and Mark. Debra was a professor of criminology at a university. She has a Ph.D. Mark was a minister at a mainline Presbyterian church. They both had tons of education. They were in the middle of a separation, but apparently it was an amicable one and he was living at home.

Emma, meanwhile, developed a fascination with horrorcore rap (that glorifies murder & cannibalism). She dressed goth. Her mother thought it was a phase, and decided to let her do these things because she didn't want Emma to pull away. They drove her 1300 miles round trip to a concert, so that they could make sure she got home safely, even though that concert was all about dismemberment and torture. They also let a friend she met on the internet, Richard McCroskey, live at their house.

Unsurprisingly (to me), McCloskey brutally killed all of them, including another friend. He's now under arrest. But what makes me shake my head is why did the parents let her get involved in this? Why not just take away her internet connection? Ground her? Make her do volunteer work at a soup kitchen? Withhold her allowance? Set some limits?

Why do parents feel so impotent? We're not. We do have control, and when we exercise it, kids tend to respond. They need to know that there are limits, and that we care enough to set them. Besides, so what if it's a phase? It's still demonic, evil, and repulsive. Whether or not it's a phase, it's not something that should ever be tolerated. I hate to blame them when they've obviously paid a heavy price, but I'm writing this more for my readers than for anyone else.

Here's one girl, Jaycee Dugard, who had no education, but who did the best she could, and raised her children well. Then there's another couple with all the education in the world, immersed in a culture that celebrates tolerance and victimhood (that's what academia is, after all), and they forgot basic points about parenting.

An interesting side note: it's very rare that stories like these happen to intact families. I'm not saying they never do; only that in the vast majority of cases, there is family turmoil at home. All the mass murderers you know were likely children of divorce. It's just a fact. Now, so am I, so I'm not blaming all victims of divorce (or all of their parents). I'm just saying that dysfunction breeds dysfunction, and we shouldn't be surprised.

Okay, one more vignette. There's a cute story on the Duggars having their first grandchild. In it, Josh, the new dad, says that both he and his wife Anna were raised in intact families, and they will provide the stability and love they have both known to their daughter. It's really quite beautiful. The two look so young, yet I would so much rather have them as parents than have this college professor and her husband, who decided to let their teenage daughter do whatever she wanted to do. That's not how the Duggars operate. They have limits. They're strict. Their kids may not have Ph.D.s, but low and behold, they end up being wise.

Much of our culture's wisdom isn't wisdom at all. Wisdom is very easy to define: it begins with the fear of the Lord, according to Proverbs. When you know there's a god, and that He wants you to serve Him, you start acting differently. You know there are consequences. You know there is right and there is wrong. And you tend to raise your children that way.

Don't get immersed in our culture's version of parenting, which believes that children should always express themselves, and that teens need to be given freedom to experiment, and that rebellion is normal. That's not right. You are a parent, and so you have a responsibility to raise your child right. From my perspective, as a parent of a 14-year-old and a 12-year-old, when you raise them well when they're young, they get increasingly easy to manage. They're a lot of fun now, and in many ways they're more moral than I am. They've had a more stable upbringing, and they don't seem to have the same weaknesses I do. They're great girls. And if they ever rebelled, they'd hear about it from their father and me.

Don't be afraid to exercise your authority. Don't be afraid to teach your children well. It worked for the Duggars. It even worked for Jaycee. And look what happened to a couple who forgot the basics.

Have a great weekend! Have fun with your family. Do something Christmasy! I'm off to speak today for the LAST time until February. I'm giving my Christmas tree talk. Here's the beginning:

Merry Christmas!

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At 8:56 AM , Anonymous Kristine McGuire said…

Sheila, I have wondered this about parents (relinquishing their role and authority to their children) for years.

I was a preschool teacher and I cannot tell you how many times a parent would come to pick up their child, see the child behaving as a child should to an adult, and say to me "How do you do that? He/she never listens to me!"

My personal belief is parents today are more concerned about being their child's friend rather than their parent. So we have children who have no respect for authority...their parents or any other...and tragedy's such as the one you described.

This will not change until parents begin to "parent" once more.

Sorry for the soapbox response,b ut this is a topic that has always bothered a parent. Thank you for the excellent blog.


At 10:03 AM , Blogger Courtney said…

I loved this post. This is something that is on my mind very often. It is disgusting to see the way some people raise their children. Like they have no repsonsibility for the person that they grow up to become. They expect teachers, schools, and the government to take care of their problems so they don't have to fool with it. You are right. Eduction does not equal wisdom. Especially in parenting.


At 10:10 AM , Anonymous Kristen G said…

This is so true -- I have a masters degree in clinical psychology (which I finished days before the birth of my first child) and my academic training certainly did nothing to enhance my parenting wisdom or skills. My professors were disappointed to see me "wasting" my fine mind (lol) when I chose to stay at home and parent rather than put my baby (later babies) into daycare and jump back into academia.
18 years later, I am still a stay-at-home mom, and I don't regret my choice (most days! lol). I have two great teens -- as you say, when you do the hard parenting stuff when they are young, they just get easier with time, and more fun. (I also have 2 preschoolers who test my "parenting wisdom" regularly!)
Our culture values education, careers, money -- and undervalues home-making and parenting. It's hard to choose the "less-valued" option -- but our kids and families are worth it.


At 11:02 AM , Blogger Miss. Candy said…

I agree and disagree - Jaycee had a foundation from her family she was raised with prior to being taken. That foundation formed her actions for her future choices. It had nothing to do with her education level, it was all about prior envrionment. Education does equal wisdom in the fact that it can lead to opportunities, demonstrates the ability to start and finish something and provides a foundation. Statistics show that educated parents are less likely to divorce, have kids that are abused/neglected, experience teen preg., and have kids who engage in crime.

Education is not parenting, parenting is a learned behavior created from an environment. Those who grew up with bad parents have to find the "key" to changing the behavior. That is why we have cycles of generational poverty and violence in our country, someone has to be "educated" to break the chain.

Setting boundaries and following through is a key factor in parenting. Enabling toxic behavior (the whole internet guy thing for example) is just bad parenting. I totally agree with that!!! I once dated a guy who was controlling and my mom made me spend the night at the domestic violence shelter for one night to see what my life would be like if I decided to stay in that situation. Best lesson ever!!!!


At 12:55 PM , Blogger Odie said…

I know that a lot of parents today, feel like they have no control, because government has taken too big a role in our homes and schools. If you pop your child's hand for trying to stick a fork in an electric socket, and a teacher or someone else sees or hears about you doing that, they immediately call Child Protective Serives, then the parent is under investigation for child abuse, etc.

I've been in stores and seen a parent give their kid a couple of pops on the rear for running around the store screaming, knocking stuff off of shelves, etc., and somebody takes and issue with that, and confronts the parent and accuses them of child abuse.

In a sense parents have lost control, because the government says children are people too, and they are, but they are not adults.

The government ties the parents hands, and then blames the parents when kids grow into lazy, dysfunctional, non productive "members" of society, usually, the incarcerated society.

I don't care who knocks on my door, my children are not going to be disrespectful to any adult, nor will I allow them to talk back to me or anyone else.

I disagree with one commenter who said that Education is key. In a sense it is, but it's a Godly education that helps, not an academic one. Academics are great and all, but in the end, that isn't what matters. In the end what matters is how you treated people, whether you shared Christ with them or not.


At 12:46 AM , Blogger Shana said…

Ah, so true.


At 11:29 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

My mom had only a high school education when I was growing up and I aspire to be the kind of parent she was. (But I think some people also wish to turn this around and say that education is useless or even detrimental, which isn't true). And it’s worth remembering that there is no magic formula for parenting. Even the best parents may have a child who rebels (which I believe to some extent is normal) or turns away from the Lord.
Nurse Bee


At 12:05 AM , Blogger Amanda said…

Oh, I love the comment about how parents are trying to hard to be their child's friend! :) I can remember my mom telling me one time that I had plenty of friends but I only had ONE mom. She said she didn't need to be another friend. I still tease her about how my brother and I had a healthy fear of her. LOL

Now fastforward 20 years. She is by far my best friend since I became an adult. As a mom, I still often rely on her wisdom and it's nothing for me to call her a couple of times a day just to see how she's doing. I wouldn't trade her wisdom and parenting during my childhood for ANYTHING.

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Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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