Times Change

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, September 13, 2010

Today we have a special guest post from my beloved father, Gary Stollak. Dr. Stollak, a Professor of Psychology at Michigan State University from 1967 until 2009, has written many journal articles and is the author of several books on marriage and child rearing, including "What Happened Today; Stories for Parents and Children," and "Until We Are Six: Toward the Actualization of Our Children's Human Potential." He is fond of Stanley Kubrick movies, corned beef and pastrami sandwiches, and ice cream...sometimes even at the same time.

Most of us understand that it is necessary to receive many years of education and many hours of supervised practice (possibly, according to many, approximately 10,000 hours) for almost all careers demanding complex skills.

On October 19th 2007, Mitt Romney, at that time a candidate for the Republican nomination for President, stated in a speech at a Values Voters Summit in Washington DC, that “Parenthood is the ultimate career for which all other careers exist.” For many commentators “Learning how to be parents is perhaps the most important task facing the human race.”

There is another, equally important, complex, and evolving “career” that demands great skills—hopefully accumulated before becoming a parent—being a committed friend, partner, and spouse.

Skills in adult-adult relationships and in parenting include, among many, being accessible; being empathic and accepting of the validity of the other’s needs, wishes, and desires; being cooperative in activities and in decision-making; and able to resolve, via negotiation and conflict-resolving skills, the inevitable conflicts of living together sharing time and space.

In these, as in many others careers, one needs to have an enduring commitment to learning motivated by passion. With practice and mentoring, there will be confidence in the knowledge and skills accumulated. Yet very few of us received any long-term formal and structured education, training, or mentoring in developing peer social skills and those relating to child caregiving.

Assuming we have acquired (and are continually increasing) knowledge that contributes to the acquisition of skills in intimate relationships and child caregiving, should we not have required K-12 education for both of these ultimate careers “for which all other careers exist”? And if we make such a commitment as a society, do we not have an obligation that educational systems have methods to assess knowledge and skills in these roles, along with the current focus in our nation on a student’s acquisition of knowledge and skills in reading and mathematics through the school years? Should there also be an equal government responsibility for such assessment, as we do for learning to drive a car or cut and shape hair, and for myriad number of other careers—including those in human resource management—demanding a diploma before licensing and before allowing practice in the career, before a couple can receive a license to marry? Should a government require prospective parents and parents of infants to participate in several year-long child caregiving education and mentoring programs that would facilitate the positive and optimal physical, psychological, and social development of their young children? The state could, at the very least, provide those participating parents a diploma…and maybe, someday, a license to parent!


Thanks for sharing with us Dr. Stollak. Your comments are insightful to me and may be even be troubling to others. I would be all for requiring some type of parenting training for parents. Let's just not make HR keep track of it!

by Dave Ryan on September 13, 2010 at 8:02 AM. #

Fortunately, many of us have had parents who have given us a lifelong crash course on parenting and relationships, but that does not help everyone or mean that education is free of fault. Not sure I trust the state to do a better job of educating prospective parents and spouses than one's own parent(s) and religious leaders, though!

by Jed M. Merrill on September 13, 2010 at 9:58 AM. #

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