Let parents ‘be the change’

Barack Obama’s “be the change” idea “could transform the education policy debate,” writes Flypaper.  It’s assumed many parents won’t raise their children responsibly so schools must step in.

Perhaps we’ll never reach “100 percent parental responsibility,” just like we’ll never reach “100 percent proficiency” in reading and math. But maybe, just maybe, we could do dramatically better than we are today in getting parents to show up for their job as their child’s first and most important teacher.

Obama called for a “new era of mutual responsibility in education” during the campaign.

There is no substitute for a parent who will make sure their children are in school on time and help them with their homework after dinner and attend those parent-teacher conferences. . . . Responsibility for our children’s education has to start at home. We have to set high standards for them and spend time with them and love them. We have to hold ourselves accountable.

What can schools do to encourage parental responsibility?

I think schools should tell parents what they school wants them to do, such as limit TV and video time on school nights, set aside time for homework and reading, enforce a sensible bed time, serve a low-sugar breakfast, get them to school on time, whatever else is doable even by poorly educated parents.  Ask them to sign a contract, even if it will be nearly impossible to enforce it.

I’d send home DVDs (or links to YouTube videos) on how to teach manners and self-control to children. How should kids handle conflict at school? Show examples.  Another DVD could show how to read aloud with a child, perhaps how to discuss a TV show with a child. Or how to help your child get organized to do homework, even if you can’t help with the homework.

In reporting for my book, Our School, I met many Mexican immigrant parents who had very little formal education. They don’t know what the school wants of them unless somebody tells them explicitly. So, tell them.

Edspresso is collecting advice for Obama on education.

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