15 November 2008

Parental Accountability and School Marketing?

Oh, boy.

I was following this link that was posted on Dennis's blog to learn more on "how to restore order and respect in public schools." And Dennis did an awesome job of presenting a positive synopsis of the major problems and methods for handling discipline in large suburban and urban schools. But what struck me was that some of these educators started discussing parental "accounability" and hopes that the Obama administration was somehow going to teach to the "whole child." Frightening, indeed.

More than that, at least one discussed how local media needs to be "marketed" to so that it portrays public schools in a good light. We don't want any negative attention on the public schools, you see. That makes the public unhappy with local schools and demand that things change. And by the way, administrators who keep misbehaving children in class rather than disciplining them make the schools look better on paper... Well, until the next school shooting, anyway.

But the forum kept coming back to the PARENTS. It's the PARENTS. How do we involve the PARENTS, etc. It bothered me, honestly, to see such foisting of responsibility. During the school year, my older children spend more time with the public education system than at home. (If you don't count sleeping hours, anyway.) As a parent, if I've sent my child to a public school, I am contracting with that school to provide the education he needs.

Sure, I can be supportive. I love my children and want them to do well, and I sure don't want them to act badly. But my interactions with the school are positive, negative or something in between depending upon the "attitude" I think I get from the staff. I know it's a lot of work, but please don't just call me when there are problems and tell me how bad things are. And a general "Dear Parent or Guardian" letter telling me that "We're off to a great start!" doesn't count as positive input at the beginning of the school year. Sorry. And don't expect me to join the PTA when it partners with the NEA to advocate for social issues that are patently unbiblical. You will need to restructure your parent organizations so that they are issue-neutral if you want my participation. Happy to come to the meetings when you do, but until then, my dues money is in my pocket and not yours. It is UNFAIR to ask parents to "participate" and get involved, but then tell them they have to do it only through these groups.

Anyway...

Assistant Professor of Education Jeff Abbott had some things to say in this forum that had me waving the hankie for joy:

"Many schools, particularly secondary schools, resemble military training camps more than institutions of learning. It is a rare school that gives students (and their parents) a meaningful choice in their schooling. First of all, we force kids to go to school between certain ages—e.g. ages 6-18. Second, we restrict their right to select a school that interests them. We force upon them arbitrary school boundaries based upon school district facility and transportation needs. Then we tell them what days and hours they must attend school. School administrators hand down unilaterally developed student behavior rules. We don't give them a choice in who will teach them. Nor do we give them much choice, except in high school where there are a few electives, to choose their course of study. On top of that, we don't even give them a choice of textbooks. There is not much, if any, real freedom for kids and parents the way we have designed public schooling."

Oh, yeah. But then I looked at a pdf document of a paper he wrote and noted that he thinks distributing lunches and breakfasts are one of the six KEY elements of his proposed "Freedom Schools." Um, yeah. You know, I was a reporter on a daily when this free breakfast idea came out and even in the much poorer districts in Indiana, it wasn't accepted readily. People KNEW they were giving up freedom just a little at a time when they accepted such "help," and yes, some of these children did NOT eat regular meals at home. But now that this breakfast program has been in place about 15 years, try to find a bunch of poor folks who would like those things "taken away." Yes, now they are dependent on these free breakfasts.

I'm sad for our country when it makes people dependent through taxpayer "gifts." I'd have much rather seen that money make a few hundred more jobs so that their daddies could come home proud each night and momma didn't get the social-services "backpack" full of food each week from the schools. Depressing.

I don't mean that I don't care or don't want to help... just... not like that. "Doing onto others" to me means there must be dignity in receiving help just as in giving it.

But back to the topic of this forum. I think it very telling that these educators, every single one of them, seem to come from the perspective that there has to BE an education system and that it should look like this or that. And most of the teachers and administrators, I think, will continue to blame economics, social problems, parents or (lowest of all!) students on their poor performance.

I don't mean to suggest that all teachers and administrators are the bad guys. More that, the "culture" of the public ed. system seems to be such that the blame can never be turned inward. It's always the government standard, the tax base, or "you name it." For what it's worth, I've also seen strange arguments in the homeschooling community blaming the rise in homosexual behaviour with taking prayer out of the public schools. Are we such wishy-washy Christians that we NEED THE SCHOOL to set aside a few minutes every day so we remember to pray??

Ok, that's another post for another day. God bless ya!!

4 comments:

  1. While in public school I realized that I tended not to pray much, like, not even for lunch, so I made it a point to pray more frequently since people got all uptight about prayer being officially removed from the routine.

    ~Luke

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  2. Mrs. C.,

    This was one of my major gripes with the public school. When Marissa was doing poorly they could blame 1) their program and curriculum, 2) Marissa or 3) me. Guess what? Never, ever once did they blame their program.

    Despite her learning disability that was documented on every psychological test that she has ever taken since she was 4, every teacher who had Marissa thought that since she has strong verbal skills she is smart and faking her difficulties. Do you know how smart Marissa would have to be to have pulled the wool over all those professionals. Only a genius could have figured out at 4 that acting dumb would save her all kinds of school work while she aged.

    And me? Well, I just refused to do some things. Marissa made straight A's on spelling tests and, in fact, represented her grade in a school spelling bee. We didn't do spelling homework. Period. Because, it took Marissa sometimes 90 minutes to do her 10 or 15 math problems. And, I didn't do any project that wasn't communicated to me (as directed on her IEP) in a timely manner. I just wasn't going to the Wal-mart at 10:30 at night to buy poster board and stay up until 4AM doing a science project that had been assigned a month in advance. I don't know; I just had this weird idea that learning to be a good, productive citizen in our community of two (I was single at the time) was as important as learning reading, writing and arithmetic. So, my entire evening wasn't going to be centered around re-schooling.

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  3. Excellent post. I still maintain that if teachers were taught how to teach correctly, about half of the public school problems would be solved.

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  4. Luke, for that matter we don't really pray that often in homeschool. Maybe I should change that?

    Julie, I soooo agree with you. Why should you have to get up and do the posterboard thing at midnight? I mean, I DO know about "responsibility" and yeah, kids forget stuff and that happens, but shall we say an IEP student is a whole 'nother ball of wax. Yes. I think we're going to say that.

    Harry, some of these ideas on the "chat" were downright frightening. But I also understand there ARE some crummy parents and students. I'm not sure that education should have to even be mandatory. I think Grannies voted that in to keep these hooligans off the streets from 9 to 3. Then they voted for after-school "care" so they wouldn't have to deal with them longer.

    For that matter...

    For all everybody makes fun of Hillary Clinton's "it takes a village" idea, I also think we do lose something in the neighbourhood accountability. No one cares what the neighbours think anymore. That is why we have these associations to enforce things and also why, often, we have so much conflict in most neighbourhoods. Even nice ones.

    Well, that's another post, too, and just my opinion. :]

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Non-troll comments always welcome! :)