As many of you may have realized by now, I don't shy away from addressing the "elephant in the room." We go through the motions while we tiptoe around the real issue(s), but we never address the actual problem. As I have said before, "we are living in a day and age in which almost nobody takes personal responsibility for their actions and behavior. How can we learn from our mistakes if we don't even admit making any? How do we improve our circumstances if we merely blame others for our fates? Maybe people would benefit from accepting responsibility, instead of blaming others."
The quality of the public education system in the United States has been an ongoing concern for many decades. Some believe that the quality of education has declined because of a reduction in the inflationary adjusted per capita amount spent per child. Others believe that it is the result of an increase in the student/teacher ratio. Still others believe that the way in which education is taught in this country has become obsolete. The list of reasons can go on and on, except one factor seems to be missing from all of these lists - the parents.
Let me take this opportunity to explain my point. I am familiar with a situation in which a child was underperforming in school and the teachers and school psychologist learned that the parents allowed the child to play video games for at least three hours every day. The mother explained that she would tell her child that he could only play the video games for one hour a day. However, when she would ask him to stop playing the game(s) at the end of the hour, the child would always tell her that he only needed a few more points to "reach the next level" and therefore was not ready to stop. The mother would back off and allow the child to continue playing for as long as he wanted to do so. The parents also told the child that he could only play video games if he had done well in school that day. The father would ask the child how he did on a particular test that day. The child would say "fine" and the father never asked for a copy of the test, which would have shown otherwise. He would therefore allow the child to play video games. By the way, the school had similar experiences with this child's older sibling, who is still underperforming. Although the teachers and school psychologist believed that the parents were the cause of the problem, the school was not permitted to address such issues. Instead, the school had to ignore "the elephant in the room" and try making changes in their teaching of that particular child. A few of the lessons those parents have taught their children are as follows: (1) disrespect boundaries; (2) make excuses to justify bad actions; (3) cheaters prosper; and (4) play the blame-game.
Another example is the fact that some parents send their children to school without feeding them breakfast. Those children have a much more difficult time concentrating in class because they do not receive proper nutrition. "Skipping breakfast can have short-term effects on memory and energy levels." How is a teacher supposed to alter the way in which they teach a child who cannot concentrate because the parents don't feed him/her properly?
In addition, many children do not receive the requisite amount of sleep. Some children come to school tired because their parents allow them to stay up later than is advisable on a school night. "The amount of sleep a child needs varies depending on the individual and certain factors, including the age of the child." Children from age 12 to 18 require between 8-9 hours of sleep per day and younger children require even more sleep. How can the school improve the way in which it teaches a child who can't concentrate because he/she does not get enough sleep?
Rather than spending time with their children and assisting or otherwise ensuring that they complete their school work, parents just allow their children to enjoy "screen time," which is defined as the use of any instrument with a screen, except when used for school work. "Did you know that kids spend more than 7.5 hours a day using the media and more than 11 hours a day, if you include multi-tasking? Did you know that kids send an average of nearly 3,000 text messages a month?"
On one hand, teachers frequently hear from parents that their child does not want to read or otherwise do homework and they don't know what to do. On the other hand, schools are not supposed to get involved in what happens outside of school. If parents don't know how to discipline their own children, that is a parenting issue, not a teaching issue.
Please note that if a school learns of child abuse, it is obligated to report the abuse to the authorities. However, most poor parenting does not amount to child abuse. I realize that life is stressful and that many parents have to work long hours in order to make ends meet. As Anthony Aloia, Ph.D. says, "Children need parents who are bigger than their problems." There is far more to parenting than procreation. Under typical circumstances, having children is the easy part and parenting them properly is a completely different story. There is always room for improvement and many of the concerns people have regarding public education are legitimate. However, it is about time that parents start accepting some of the responsibility, instead of just blaming the teachers and the education system.
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