September 08, 2010
by Tammy Drennan, NEO Senior Writer
For 160 years public schools have marginalized parents. Parents are what schools were created to save children from.
But today, with teachers and schools taking more and more flak for student failure, the hunt for scapegoats is widening and the searchlight has fallen on parents.
Former teacher Walt Gardner wrote in his Education Week blog:
"Since reformers demand data about student performance, this is a propitious time to consider the hitherto untouchables [parents] in student outcomes. Let's not forget that education is a partnership between home and school."
What, we might ask, is the nature of this partnership? Do parents choose what children will learn? Do they approve teachers? Do they approve courses, curricula, activities? Do they have any say about dismissing bad teachers, school policy on discipline, what money is spent on?
Mr. Gardner offers some specific advice:
"Parents can begin by engaging their toddlers in a dialogue when they go to the park or to the market. They ask simple questions with known answers, and then reward the responses with praise or correction. Parents can then read to their children from books that feature stories having relevance to their children. They can frequently stop the reading to ask questions to determine comprehension."
Parents should also attend teacher meetings and open houses, volunteer, look at their children's report cards, and ask what their children learned in school each day.
I'm sure Mr. Gardner means well. He's certainly right that parents are vital to a child's education, but this is no partnership. It's the usual dictatorship: we'll tell you what to do and you do it. If you don't, we're conjuring ways to hold you accountable (and ways to reduce our accountability).
Schools have spent generations pushing parents away and leading children to think quaint, provincial Mom and Dad are not to be taken too seriously about the more important aspects of living. The family has been assaulted by the public school until far too many parents have cried Uncle, and now the schools want to embrace them in a big hug of shared blame for the disastrous results.
Parents are the only feasible answer to the education and life crises we face today. But 160 years of experience clearly shows that no real partnership between parent and state-run school is possible. It's the schools' way or no way. That leaves only one true option for parents: reclaim their offspring and create real partnerships with people who share their vision for their children.