During a speech in Madison, Wisconsin today to promote education reform Obama veered from his scripted remarks to give an example of the importance of parents setting high academic standards for their children so that they come to expect such standards from themselves. We're not sure how much his daughter Malia appreciated the story since it involved the nation hearing how she received a 73 on a science test a couple years ago, but it ends with her success so we hope she won't be too upset.
In our own household, with all the privileges and opportunities that we have, look, there are times when kids slack off. There are times when they would rather be watching TV or playing a computer game than hitting the books. And part of our job as parents, Michelle and my job, is not just to tell our kids what to do, but to start instilling in them a sense that they want to do it for themselves.
So Malia came home the other day and she had gotten a 73 on her science test. Now she's a 6th grader. There was a time a couple years ago when she came home with like an 80-something and she said I did pretty well, and I said, no, no, no. I said our goal is 90 percent and up. So, here's the interesting thing. She started internalizing that, so she came and she was depressed - got a 73. And I said well what happened: 'Well the teacher, the study guide didn't match up with what was on the test.' So what's your idea here? 'Well, I'm gonna start, I've got to read the whole chapter. I'm gonna change how I study, how I approach it.'
So she came home yesterday and she got a 95. But here's the point. She said, 'I just like having knowledge.' That's what she said. And what was happening was she had started wanting it more than us. Once you get to that point, our kids are on their way. But the only way they get to that point is if we're helping them get to that point. So it's going to take that kind of effort from parents to set a high bar in the household. Don't just expect teachers to set a high bar; you've got to start setting a high bar in the household.