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Education Matters

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by Arthur Mallory

Several years ago while discussing Missouri education with Missouri teachers and administrators, I stated, "The family is the taproot of our civilization. The family is the glue that holds our society together. It makes us something more than an agglomeration of individuals.

"Without families, there would be no neighborhoods or cities; without families to provide the basic unit of social order, there would be no nations.

"Indeed, human beings might never have emerged from their primitive beginnings had they not developed the familial relationships which nurtured cooperation and made possible the transmittal of knowledge, experience and custom from one generation to the next."

My colleagues said, "We know that!"

Of course they did, and still do, but I felt the need to continue to remind us that the family is also the strongest educational influence in the lives of most individuals.

Educators have long recognized this link between the individual's family experience and his potential for happiness and success at school. The importance of this relationship has not been diminished by the years of change we have seen in our nation's social structure.

Those of us who have spent a lifetime in the service of children and youth know the significance of the family in the schooling process. It is my guess that the relationship between a good family experience and success and happiness in the workplace is just as significant.

If this is so, what does that say to the leaders of the business community?

The great school districts work hard to find ways to provide a positive influence on the families of their students.

They communicate with the family, seek to bring the family into the decision making process as it relates to the family's children, and we have even developed programs designed to help families of very young children become the best possible first teachers for the young child.

School teachers and administrators realize that what the family does during the first five years of a child's life will last that child's life.

This is one of the most powerful educational concepts we know.

Research and common sense dictate that the school recognize the family as the key factor in the child's and youth's success in school, and that the single most important duty of the family is to rear its children.

Does it follow that the single most important duty of American business and industry is to help assure the success of the American family?

This will be a hard sell for some, but it will prove to be smart business.

Should the business community seek ways to strengthen the families of their associates and employees?

Would it be good business to spend as much time being concerned with and for the American family as is spent thinking about any of the three or four other most important issues facing the business?

Would the long range well-being of the business be enhanced by being concerned for the long range well-being of the family?

This concern for family could be one of the characteristics which would set the business apart and assure its future success.

I believe God would bless such an effort.

How to do it? Therein lies the challenge. What a challenge! What an opportunity!

Clearly, a challenge worthy of one's best.

(Arthur L. Mallory, EdD, is a former president of Southwest Missouri State University and former commissioner of education who resides in Springfield.)

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