Parents Can Only Teach What They Know
The raging blame debate, when it comes to public-school students’ performance, made an appearance in RI Education Commissioner Deborah Gist’s online chat for the Providence Journal:
Parent: As a parent of 2 children, I know how crucial parent involvement is. Has anyone looked at educating the parents of the kids of these failing schools? You can replace the teachers….and you can give new teachers incentives to change things around. But this is a band aid. Teachers are blamed for too many problems. They can’t be expected to solve the problems of society. Teachers have many many challenges these days- more so than 25 years ago. Kids and parents need to take responsibility for on education. Just look at math grades around the state. Kids don’t know how to deal with fractions because they don’t know how to tell time on an analgoue clock. But the teachers are blamed. Let’s take a look at the real problems. Educate the kids – the parents- look around the country at other programs. Please don’t make this mistake.
Deborah Gist: Parent involvement is important, and supportive, engaged parents are important partners in a child’s education. Fortunately, we know that great teaching can overcome those instances when children have parents who are unable to provide that level of support. I don’t blame teachers, but I do hold them accountable for results. I also hold myself and everyone on my team accountable.
I wonder if this mightn’t be an area in which productive cooperation is actually possible. With math in particular, many students aren’t being taught in a manner with which their parents are familiar. Indeed, from time to time one reads or hears about parents’ being explicitly instructed not to teach their children the “old” (tried and true) methods of mathematics while helping them with their homework. In a society in which parents are already too disengaged, increasing the likelihood that they’ll appear ignorant in front of their children isn’t going to help.
Something similar surely comes into play with the fading of literary classics from the curriculum and the reworking of history books to reflect the radical tinge of the academy. A “back to basics” campaign in which the commissioner encourages a resurgence of more-traditional curricula would be an excellent complement to her reforms related to the structure of the public education system.