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Monday, March 13, 2006

Pusillanimous Parenting and Unrealistic Bureacracies

Pusillanimous Parenting and Unrealistic Bureacracies

Hattip for In government schools, much of the problem IS the parents: A neighbor and colleague who prefers to remain anonymous

"America is being told we have lousy parents, bad kids and we can't do anything without the help of government.." That's right, lousy parent who fail to step up to the bat to be...parents. Instead they masquerade as their children's friends, or allies, or roommates, or even providers , and ignoring the obvious, the known-for-generations characteristics of childhood and children, they throw up their hands as they go off persuing their own dreams while their little nuisance, as did Uncle Tom's Cabin's who "just growd" without supervision or direction. No wonder America's children and America's schools are in disarray.

For thousands of years parents took particular care with their children: what they ate, what they wore, where they went, with whom they associated, and what they learned, knowing that unformed children need a strict, but balanced hand for the proper formation of their bodies, minds and character. They kept their children at home or in small groups they supervised and instructed themselves.

Does today's busy life require a different arrangement? The world is a "busy, dangerous place." Children need "to be with their peers" and "learn a set curriculum" in order to be successful in this fast-paced, troublesome world? Abandoning children to only the supervision of the school is an abrogation of parental authority as parents hand off their children with the "wish" that they learn and a "prayer" that they don't return either as traumatized or tormentor, or that they have positive rather than negative experience.

Parents set their children up everyday to do one or the other and teachers are often saddled with "regulations and bureaucracy intended to address the fact that parents aren't being parents, and so teachers, "unfairly I say, "are forced to be parents."

And when I say that "parents aren't being parents," I mean in the most basic sense: children come to school not properly fed; their clothes aren't clean; no one makes them do their homework or go to bed at a decent hour each night; there is no discipline or organization (and children desperately need both).  And that is not even counting the number of parents who indulge their children with material items to make up for the time they don't spend with them.  Or the parents whose nightlives (read what you want into that) send a very clear message about insecurity and promiscuity - not to mention priorities. Oh, and did we mention the parents with substance abuse problems?  Or those in and out of jail?
The children of these parents are needy, angry, resentful, depressed, enraged, aggressive and difficult if not impossible to control.  And they are present in ever-increasing numbers in schools each year.  What are teachers supposed to do in these situations?

Private and sectarian schools will go back to the parents and demand accountability, because they can.  Government schools, on the other hand, have a top-down management model that believes - as Zoller intimates - that higher taxes and more regulations will enable government to parent - if not better than, then at least as well as - the parents themselves.

Parents are all to blame as they are responsible for their children's welfare.

Schools where these hopeful parents send off their children everyday also have a measure of responsibility in debacle of modern American childhood. Under the watchful eye and regulation of a top-down bureaucracy, schools in combination with irresponsible parents and unrealistic education departments at the local, state, and federal level, combined with theorists and bureaucrats to create a laboratory, i.e. school, where problems fester, education decays, teachers are set up to fail, and all children - perhaps especially those without emotional, psychological or developmental problems - suffer, problems often caused by conditions created by those same parents.

For the sake of the children and for the sake of America, schools have been forced to take up the slack in areas that were previously reserved for parents since the beginning of time. The problem, it seems, is not new.
Education was a haphazard affair in America's early history. Few children received a full, quality education while the majority received an education that was sparse, poorly-funded, and short.

Are today's children any better off? They are sent off to be held captive in centers of learning while their parents eke out a living or pursue their own dreams. Since the beginning of time, education has always been a local affair, as local as the parents' on parlor, barn, workshop, or cave need be. Organized education changed the educational experience as organized religion changed the nature of the spiritual experience.

America subscribed to "natural law" in the Declaration of Independence which stated that "parents should have the final word on the education of children." What happened?

While the idea of a “department of education” dates back to the 1860s, Congress feared that the department would have too much power over local schools and kept it small until 1980.  Until the Lyndon Johnson administration, Congress made clear its intention that the secretary of education and other officials be prohibited from exercising direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, instructional programs, administration, or personnel of any educational institution. Such matters were and should be the responsibility of states, localities, and private institutions. 

The Johnson administration began adding many programs designed to help educate the poor, however the report, “A Nation At Risk” put out by the Department of Education (made a cabinet level position in 1980), led Congress to the conclusion that schools needed more involvement from the federal government. The fact of the matter is that the more the federal government has been involved, the worse schools have gotten.  And with more involvement of the federal government, there has been more alienation of the parent from the school system. This is not a reflection on No Child Left Behind, which is actually helping the students it was designed to help—those left behind by the “soft bigotry of low expectations.” But, the one size fits all approach of NCLB has made schools doing well before NCLB be so bogged down in bureaucracy that teachers are unhappy. 

Instead of an improved system that affords each child a program to develop his abilities, NCLB (No Child Left Behind) has become a failing bureaucratic monster of standardization that overlooks the natural idiosyncratic differences among all learners. There is no one way to learn nor is there only way to verify learning. Forcing teachers to limit their teaching practices to the "flavor of the year" does a disservice to them as well as the students. Requiring all students to conform to a standardized test to verify learning is for the convenience of bureaucrats rather than to determine what a students actually has learned.

The students of neglectful parents in a stultifying bureaucratic environment where teachers' hands are metaphorically tied by bureaucracy and the custom of progressives who have morphed schools into sociological experiments are "needy, angry, resentful, depressed, enraged, aggressive and difficult if not impossible to control." And I would add that they are often bored and ready to use their natural talents to create a stimulating, but usually anti-social environment for no one has bothered to convince that socially acceptable behavior leads to anything that they value as now that the confusing concept of permanent life-defining values in a the post-modern relativistic world of multiculturalism and political correctness.

The obvious best answer would be to overturn bureaucracy and return responsibility for the upbringing of children to caring and competent parents. Schools evolved because many parents aren't caring, are incompetent, and are just absent. Thus the alternative answer would be to evolve or even devolve the school into a form that better meets the needs of real children rather than those of the regulatory bureaucracies created for varied political reasons why any bureaucracy exists. The layers in the various education bureaucracies have become an entities for self-perpetuation rather than agencies that real good for the human beings for which they are responsible: children, their parents, and teachers.


  • At Mon Mar 13, 07:41:00 PM PST, Blogger Pim's Ghost said…

    Funny, I stayed up very late last night writing two articles on this subject (roughly this subject). I'm sick of this generation's lack of willingness to take personal responsibility.


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