I recently read an article in USA Today by Patrick Welsh entitled, “The key to a good education: parents (not teachers),” and was almost amused by how far it misses the mark.
We currently have a rousing debate in this country about how best to educate our children. On one side we have schools and teachers and on the other we have education reformers. It’s difficult to include Congress in the debate at this time.
Certainly parents can be more involved in the education of their children, some more than others, but good parenting only goes so far when it applies to success in the classroom. Some parents take it a step further and homeschool their kids because they understandably feel they can do a better job. I haven’t seen their stats for success but I’ve seen it work well in the limited exposure I’ve had in this area.
I can say for certain that every parent I know wants their children to get a better education than they had, wants their children to have better opportunities than they had, and wants their children to have more career success than they have had in their life. I’m also certain that we can all agree on that.
We must keep in mind though that parents don’t create the curriculum, don’t teach the curriculum, and don’t monitor the effectiveness of the teaching on the curriculum. Schools and teachers do that, among others.
It is also important to note that teachers are trained to teach. They are professionals that get paid to teach and educate children. How many parents (unless they are teachers) have the educational background or the tools to match the credentials that reside in the classroom? The real key to a good education is the effectiveness of the classroom. Does it inspire, lead, and arouse a willingness to learn? The parents are absent from the equation because they are either at work or at home and not in the classroom.
In the article, the author writes:
“Reduced to its simplest terms, the rationale behind the attack on teachers is this: Children born to single, semi-literate, poverty-stricken 16- or 17-year-olds can, with the right teachers, reach the same level of academic skill as children born to parents such as Ben’s and Emma’s (two success stories mentioned in the article). Teachers would love to have such power, but statistics and common sense show that with few exceptions, things don’t work that way.”
Are you sure about that? The success of the KIPP schools would beg to differ. In the book, “Work Hard. Be Nice,” it tells how two overly-determined and hard-working teachers made a difference with children that were born to parents that had none of the advantages of Ben and Emma’s. They replicated their success in KIPP schools around the country. And that’s just KIPP. There are other programs that have proven the right combination of teacher-skill and curriculum can get through to kids at a disadvantage. I won’t even go into “Waiting for Superman,” as it’s now available on DVD for all to see.
I don’t want this to sound like I’m bashing teachers and I also know that the success found by KIPP and others is very difficult to achieve nationwide at every school. It is cost and time prohibitive and requires an insane commitment by the teachers and students. As good as it may be the process doesn’t scale well.
I love teachers and have respect for them and the job they perform. They spend more time with our children every day than most of us do as parents. What they teach them will have a lifelong impact on their lives. We’ve all been through school and know some teachers are great and others not so great. The same goes for parents.
In the end, the key to a good “education” is on the teachers, schools and curriculum. The key to good kids is on the parents. Teachers have had training, have resources, and get paid to teach. Parents have had zero training, and some have zero resources.
What is required in the classroom is beyond the scope of understanding of many parents. What is taught now is not the same as what was taught when the parents were in school. Sure, George Washington has always been the first President, but some parents barely scratched algebra in high school and they probably don’t remember it today. Their kids are being exposed to it in elementary school. Don’t laugh, but there are actually parents that struggle with a computer yet their kids use them every day in school. Many parents are at a major disadvantage on so many levels that there is simply no way they can provide for their children what is necessary for them to thrive, let alone compete in school with kids that have every advantage. How can they be at fault?
The biggest problem I have with the education debate is that almost everybody on either side is only looking at 80% of the kids that are high-functioning children without any form of learning disability. From KIPP to teachers to Congress, absent are the struggles of the families that have special kids that under-perform in school. The parents certainly don’t have the training to help other than a lot of love and a willingness to fight for them because they can’t fight for themselves. Parents of children with learning disabilities spend more time with homework, special programs, and sometimes being the only friend they have because they do whatever it takes. They spend countless hours just to get their children to reach the back of the pack, which for them is success.
Oh how easy it would be if these kids could pull a “C” in all of their classes and only spend two or three hours on homework every night instead of the recommended 20 to 30 minutes.
I know many of these parents and I can safely say they never give up on their kids either. They don’t just spend time helping them get an education – they’ve made it a full-time commitment. Every day and every night.