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Opinion: Parental reform

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

There's a lot of buzz about education this week. Most of it coinciding with a new documentary that explores the failures of the American public education system. But as a classic cynic, I also suspect the education discussion is a well-timed diversion from the economy -- just before the November elections.

Regardless of the motive, there is ample reason to discuss education in America and our slide from education excellence as measured against other nations. The new documentary "Waiting For Superman" has created a stir primarily because it calls into account the teachers' unions for resisting changes in education reform while protecting their union membership.

President Obama, who depends on union donations for his political survival, even weighed in on the teachers' unions by saying they too must be accountable if reform is to occur. Those words from this President are both shocking and appropriate.

The Obama administration has touted their Race to the Top initiative for education with mixed results in the early going. That program most certainly cannot match the No Child Left Behind program for ineptitude.

The administration points to nearly 2,000 school districts in this country that have a graduation rate less than 50 percent. If you want to find common ground in these districts, two starting points are obvious: They are concentrated in urban areas and they are represented by teachers' unions. There are other commonalities but these two factors are predominate.

In discussing education this week, the President also said the words that have been missing from the discussion for far too long. In a ginger fashion to be sure, the President said that parents hold the leading role in student achievement. These words are long overdue. And yet we tiptoe around the issue of parental involvement.

To speak strongly to that topic, we would have to jump into the issue of personal responsibility. That would clearly run counter to the concept of the Clintons that it takes a village to raise a child.

I have always held a clear point of view on the topic of excellence in education. Having repeated this mantra so often, I fear repetition.

But here goes.

All of the funding, all of the union reform and all of the teacher evaluation will do little if there is no reinforcement of education within the home. Curiosity and a thirst for knowledge start at the dinner table. We don't need education reform as badly as we need parental reform. Until parents -- often a single mother -- accept the responsibility to embrace education for their child, all of the other discussion is just hot air.

That doesn't mean additional reforms are unneeded. It just means that substantial progress will always be lacking until parents recognize and accept their role in the process.

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There is that phrase again "often a single mother". Blaming the single mother for the education problem in our country is like "the devil made me do it" excuse. Single mothers do not become mothers without the assistance of a single father. I am so sick of the use of that phrase, it makes me want to puke.

-- Posted by ithenana on Wed, Sep 29, 2010, at 6:17 AM

I agree with ithenana about the readiness to slur the "single mother" Some of the great people in history were raised by single mothers. Furthermore let's look at the system that encourages single motherhood by subsidizing it and which does not encourage forcefully the responsibility of the "single father".

-- Posted by walela on Wed, Sep 29, 2010, at 6:31 AM

Love your children; home school them, if possible.

With the Department of Education's treatment of children as lab rats, why not do away with the Federal Department of Education? That would make a start toward better education.

In government, the incentive is to fail.

-- Posted by BCStoned on Wed, Sep 29, 2010, at 8:35 AM

If it is done correctly, home schooling is wonderful...but be aware it is not easy, nor inexpensive and the home school teacher must be totally dedicated to the program...many times a parent impulsively decides to homeschool and then finds that it is incredibly more difficult than he/she thought it would be...there are some good materials available but you still have to really teach...

-- Posted by walela on Wed, Sep 29, 2010, at 1:57 PM

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