….it’s called time_devoted_to_kid.  That’s what distinguishes not kids who “make” it, but kids who have a fighting chance to make it.  It’s someone willing to devote their time in service to the needs of their kid, any kid; a kid.

So it doesn’t necessarily have to come of or for a child of your loins.  And sadly the devotion is not a sure-fire bet.  But as a generality it sure does explain a lot about the likelihood of a child’s success.  When the child is central to someone’s attention, that is the medium for their growth.

A hallmark of this country is the amount of time spent in thrall of athletics, as spectators, as participants, and as contributors to a partisan federation focused on furthering the business of one specific sport.  If you’re not currently one investing time_devoted_to_kid you may be unaware of the mind-boggling number of man-hours spent in service to the effort.  This past weekend, for example, just this one past weekend in southern California alone – one of seven sections within 1 of 59 “Local Swim Committees” — nearly a thousand families each attended at least three regional swimming invitational meets.  This is a first, thrice-yearly winnowing in the megalithic effort to nurture life-long fitness in our young or grow the next Missy Franklin/Michael Phelps, whichever comes first.  Each family is represented by at least two individuals, a swimmer and a driver and often more – sibling, second guardian, friend.  These families may travel hundreds of miles but mostly, they devote dozens and dozens of hours per meet per person to the aspirations of the one they nurture.  Each swimmer can easily “consume” the time-committed support of several hundreds of hours annually.

This statistic, imprecise though it may be, is simply breath-taking.  While teachers everywhere report the difficulty in mobilizing guardians to come visit their child’s classroom or meet to discuss academic progress, meanwhile another class of children can count on several orders of magnitude more man-hours devoted to their athletic endeavors, and not just once or twice per year, but repeatedly, sustainedly.

Athletic prowess was considered by the Greeks to be essential to a well-rounded, educated individual insofar as play properly aides learning, rather than eclipses it.  But in our day and age where Time Is Money, it is only a privileged class of children – not necessarily wealthy, but those privileged with the commodity of their guardian’s time_devoted_to_kid, who are afforded this essential component of education.  And among those who receive any, as with so much else, what they receive is received in huge excess – at the expense of moderation in other arenas.  Our children, therefore, participate in a winner-take-all market in terms of time_devoted_to_kid.  Some get untold quantity of devotion while others do not.  And this is reflected in the resources of our public schools.  If our schools received a fraction of the devotion of athletic federations’, today’s discussion of Education Reform would be entirely different.

Instead, after guardians devote hundreds upon hundreds of hours in service to the athletic federation of a child’s sport, there is no discretionary time left in service to the child’s school tasked with their academic enrichment.  And where once these components – athletics and academics – were attended simultaneously because they were considered synergistic components of education, now they are each relegated to the private resources of the child’s family – even those attending “public” educational institutions.

What falls out of the massive effort in the past 20 years of parsing education into ever-smaller institutions of selective “choice”, is a fierce winnowing in terms of the guardian-parameter of time_devoted_to_kid.  The spectrum of educational choices from private through to charter and public, can be seen as a filtering of that parameter from high to low.  This is the parameter being sorted, not child_talent or intelligence or even wealth and certainly not worth, but time_devoted_to_kid.

If we wish to nurture a society of citizens capable solely of answering prescribed questions by rote, then we can continue abdicating time devoted to true academics with impunity.  But I don’t think anyone proposes that to be the goal of a true education.  We wish to raise children prepared to think critically and morally.  And for that we must devote a comparable time to the context of learning, and that comes from us.  Our children need us to devote time to their lives of civic responsibility.  The real wealth of a child is measured in terms of that parameter of time_devoted_to_kid, the inalienable right of one and all.  Let’s start figuring how to get our kids more attention from more families, and from more teachers.  Not from more software retailers.