Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Unapologetic Parents

What is our culture telling you about what it means to be a parent?

This week, Jay Mathews wrote in The Washington Post about his experiences as a public school dad (Who says I'm an over involved dad?). Mathews shares his frustration with the current paradigm for parental involvement in education:

I think our schools, and our culture, have the wrong attitude about mothers and fathers who have skills and knowledge to share.

If I were a former college pitcher and spent much time helping my daughter perfect her rhythm on the mound, would anyone object? No. I might even get an award from the local Little League if she got us to the finals.

But if my wife and I, both journalists, edited our children’s school essays, or if our Paris-born neighbors corrected all the errors in their children’s French homework, or if my cousin the trial lawyer prepped his daughter for her graded classroom debate in U.S. government, many people, including some well-meaning teachers, would say we were going over the line.

Mathews identifies a core problem of schooling (at home or in a classroom) when it stops being a relationship between committed learners -- some further along the road, others just starting out.

Whether it's a parent proofreading without stopping to teach the child the difference between a passive and an active verb or a teacher providing just enough information to pass the End-of-Grade test, we've lost something. We've given over to the factory; we've lost sight of the human.

Every parent has knowledge and skills to share, but more than that, every parent has a relationship to build with their children. Mathews concludes,

In 2007 the National Survey of Student Engagement found that college students whose parents frequently intervened on their behalf “reported higher levels of engagement and more frequent use of deep learning experiences.” Helping your child learn should not be something shameful. Let’s say out loud that we are going to pass on what we know, no matter what anyone else thinks about it. (Read more)

Let's say more than that. Let's say we are going to give our children the chance to watch us struggle with learning, so they can copy our perseverance and character. Let's say we are going to give our children consistent, ongoing guidance that recognizes them to be whole human beings in need of nurture, not just programming.

Let's say we aren't afraid to be parents.


Bookworm said...

This is a hard one for me. I understand what your saying but you did put your child under their care and they could spend all day dealing with parents disputing everything. I I think parents should show their child at home what was left out or wrong. I might be wrong but just a thought.

1 Smart Mama said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I think that conflict of needs -- efficient teaching vs. parental involvement -- is hard to avoid in public and private schools.

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