Nalini Joseph: Academic success is most important

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 31, 2021

By Nalini Joseph

As American parents, we are programmed to give our children a well-rounded education and exposure to as many extra-curricular activities as possible.

We want our children to experience all that America has to offer our children: sports, drama, music education, martial arts, outdoor activities, playtime with their friends and, of course, video games! Sandwiched between all these activities is school attendance and homework.

It’s not uncommon for children to be the busiest persons in the household. I often wonder how much of this constant barrage of activity a child can sustain and still perform at a consistently high level at school. Are schools accommodating our children by constantly lowering educational levels so that they don’t fail? Somewhere along the way, did we as parents subconsciously decide that it’s just easier — after a long hard day at work — to let coaches parent our children on the soccer field while we sit in the bleachers and shoot the breeze with other parents? After soccer, everyone hops into the SUV and cruises over to the next activity where they are then in the care of another trainer or teaching adult.

By 7 in the evening, we’ve cooked a quick dinner, fed the kids and sat down to check our emails and texts that have accumulated while the kids watch television or do their homework. The weekend comes and then it’s time for the beach or the beautiful North Carolina mountains! This lifestyle of course does not apply to all parents, but quite a few of us can relate to this parenting style.

Furthermore, nothing in our parenting abilities is amiss or worth examining because our children’s report cards say they are doing well in school. Heck, they might even be on the straight-A honor roll! Then, we can now buy that “honor roll kid on board” bumper sticker. But think about this: if the curriculum at your child’s school or the school itself is a sub-par institution, then what do straight-As really mean? At best, it means that the child is the best student in a class full of academically underperforming students.

We wonder why MIT, Harvard, Yale and the other Ivy Leagues will not accept our straight-A, well-rounded kids. The truth is it’s probably best that they did not accept our child. If they did, our child’s time would be wasted and our hard-earned money would be wasted on tuition. Our straight-A achieving, well-rounded child simply isn’t good enough to cope with the rigors of the best colleges and universities. Going to MIT would be a guaranteed way of ensuring failure. Your child is better off getting a degree at a state university or college or even a community college, where they have a better chance of success.

The fault is not in the system or in the child; it is in our own fault as parents. We decided it was more important for our child to be well-rounded and “enjoy being a kid.” We are surprised when we realize what they have learned to enjoy are activities and sports instead of learning to enjoy reading, writing and arithmetic — math and science. Children can still be productive and, perhaps, even successful adults when they are into sports and extra-curricular activities. However, we greatly diminish their chances at greatness.

We have an aversion to our children growing up in a bubble, in a one-dimensional world. We don’t want to be accused of being “helicopter parents.” However, I believe that controlling your child’s environment as much as possible is the best way to parent a child destined for greatness.

Asian parents are proof that strict parental controls lead to greatness. Academic achievement is paramount — not exposure to different kinds of activities or life experiences. Four percent of the U.S. population is of Asian origin, yet 45% of the kids at the California Institute of Technology, 25% at MIT and 16% at Harvard are of Asian origin. Californians just voted on Proposition 16, which would force colleges and universities to consider a student’s race when competing for admissions. Thankfully, the proposition failed. Children of Asian origin are not smarter than other kids. However, they are parented for success — for greatness.

Nalini Joseph is a resident of Salisbury. She is the proud mother of 10-year honor-roll student, Rohan Joseph, who serves his community as president of COVID Busters. Email her at