Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Real Problem in Education

A few days ago, it was Open House Night at the middle school (6th-8th grade) of my two older children. Essentially, it's a "meet the teachers" night, wherein parents follow their child's schedule and go from class to class for ten minutes or so. Teachers outline what they're doing, share other info, and answer some questions. One of my kids is in 6th grade and the other is in 8th, which means I--personally--could only follow one of their schedules. Since my wife had a work "thing," I enlisted my mother to go to the classes of the older one, while I took the younger one's schedule.

My older child is very comfortable in school, gets good grades, and really has no issues to speak of. My middle one--the 6th grader--gets good grades, too. But this being his first year in middle school--a big change in structure from elementary school--I felt it was important to meet his teachers and make sure there were no issues that I needed to be aware of. Plus, teachers do this on their own time and it's only common courtesy to meet them when they go out of the way to meet me. Right?

Really, these back to school-type nights are old hat. Schools were doing them when I was a kid and before. And it seems to me that it's just basic good parenting to know who and what your kids are being exposed to in school. Yet--amazingly--the majority of parents don't show up. Each class has around 22 kids--per state mandate--and thus, I'd expect to see at least 22 adults in each class (allowing that some parents just couldn't make it, while--in other cases--both parents of some children would be there.

In the four academic classes (my son is in a drama magnet program and has two periods of drama, same teacher) I attended, the most that was in any one class was...ready?...12. And that included both parents of two children, meaning that 10--out of 22--children were represented. Less than half.

But wait, there's more. In the last class there were eight parents. And one of the eight was yapping on a cell phone while the teacher was talking. Another one brought her dog--a chihuahua--and was busy the entire time trying to keep it calm and quiet.

I did see a lot of parents I knew from elementary school, though. They're the same ones that I'd usually see at school events like honor roll assemblies...

There's no question that we have some problems with our education system, from teachers, to facilites, to the administration, to curriculum, to federal involvement. But we can work through all of that, I think. The biggest problem is the one no one likes to talk about: parents. Most of them just don't care. Oh, I'm sure every one that didn't show up has an excuse. But come on. Less than 50%? Ten will get you twenty, the people that showed up are--by and large--the same people that actually vote in elections. That would be a really interesting thing to explore, I think...

Cheers, all.

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