I have to ask, how are we assessing our kids? A proper assessment assures us we’re on the right track as we aim our children toward their destinies.

When my sons were growing up, most schools administered broad assessment tests once toward the end of the year, while report cards went out quarterly. I never put a lot of stock in what the S.A.T., C.A.T or the I.T.B.S said about my kids. They always tested acceptably on these, but the scores didn’t carry a lot of weight with me.

In our home, their progress was monitored daily and their character assessed relentlessly; those were the tests I was concerned about. I didn’t care if they’d read every book that Nietzsche or Darwin had written and memorized it backwards. It didn’t matter if they’d been invited to honors classes. At the end of the day, from my perspective all that stuff was meaningless if there wasn’t character, integrity, and world-changing purpose in their lives.

I found it necessary to continually resist the standards set by popular culture as they related to my five sons. Often the world’s perspective was diametrically opposed to how I viewed true success for my boys.

If my children didn’t possess prized qualities of distinction like perseverance, respect for authority, quick obedience, faithfulness, and a solid work ethic, then what kind of impact could they possibly have in our world?

If they didn’t display active compassion to the hurting, and think outside of the tiny box of their own personal happiness, then in actuality, no matter what the test scores told me, I would have failed to produce a successful man.

John Taylor Gatto, former public school educator and prolific author, had this to say about the children he taught for three decades in the public system:

“The children I teach are indifferent to the adult world. The children I teach have almost no curiosity. The children I teach are cruel to each other; they lack compassion for misfortune; they laugh at weakness; they have contempt for people whose need for help shows too plainly. The children I teach are dependent, passive, and timid in the presence of new challenges.” *

This assessment is troubling. How many educated children of our day would be similar? That is a specimen you and I don’t want to produce. A person who is highly educated, but without character, is an educated idiot. God knows there are more than enough of them populating the earth as it is. Many of them teach at our universities.

Don’t hear what I’m not saying. Education is important. In fact, it’s so important to me that I labored long and hard educating my children for over 20 years. I took their life preparation very seriously, but all my eggs weren’t in the academic basket.

This world’s system of assessing our children is based on their good looks, athletic prowess, personal charisma, academic standing, fine arts talent, and so on. This information is collected and used to compare our kids with others their age. Comparisons are often destructive and can prove to be a death knell to us and our children. And although a child may excel in any or all of these categories, he may still greatly lack true substance in his life.

Sadly enough, grandparents, educators, and adult friends aren’t always a good litmus test either. Depending on what their basis for evaluation is, they might be out in left field in their assessment of your child.

I’m not endorsing lone-ranger parents with an independent spirit, but I am saying the buck stops with you. You have to own the responsibility of knowing your child, assessing your child through the lens of your values, gathering wisdom from those you deeply respect and applying it appropriately to your unique situation.

This isn’t a one-size-fits-all microwave-speed method of child rearing, because, trust me, you don’t want a one-size-fits-all microwave-speed method for your little miracle who is as unique and set apart as his or her own fingerprint indicates.

*Gatto, John T. Dumbing Us Down (Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 1992), pp. 30–32.

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