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Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016

School lessons begin in the home

Monday, July 26, 2004

School will begin in just a few weeks and already I'm worried. I'm not concerned about the teaching staff nor the administration. What concerns me is that far too many students will return to school with no incentive from home to excel in the classroom. Too many students will return unprepared and largely uninterested in an education.

My concerns are not based on pessimism nor cynicism. They are based on history and facts and a growing notion in some quarters that education is somehow unimportant. In some quarters, in fact, achievement in education is viewed with ridicule. To value education above social activities is viewed by some as inappropriate.

Too many parents will send their children back to school this year with no reinforcement from home, no encouragement to succeed. They will be handed to the school system as some elaborate baby-sitting service. It frees the parents to spend their days as they want. And society suffers.

But what is equally as alarming to me is that too many children will return to school not simply lacking the reading and writing skills. Too many will return lacking character skills. They lack the respect for authority because that is the mind set in their homes. And to expect teachers to address all of these problems and issues is a task beyond the imagination.

So what do we do? We send an alarming and escalating number of children to an alternative school where expectations are lowered. We remove their disruptive behavior from the regular classroom to allow other students to learn and progress as they should. In the end, we create two separate societies that unfortunately mirror the overall society.

So let's put the blame where it should fall. Parents. Or more specifically parent (singular). If that child does not learn appropriate behavior at home, how can we expect the school to transform that student overnight? The answer is we cannot and should not hold that expectation. It's not a fault of society, nor income, nor social standing, nor race, nor gender. It is the fault of a parent who is either ill-equipped or unable to teach the basic values of a civilized society. And part of that problem is the bizarre notion that educational success is inappropriate.

I fear for our school system. Private and parochial schools are taking some of the best and brightest achievers from our student body and that dilutes the overall level of success. What will eventually remain will be a system split evenly between under-achievers with behavior problems and students unable to afford the private school approach. That is far from ideal for a public school system. And yet I certainly don't blame those who opt for private schools. In fact, I fully understand their concerns which are based on what is best for their child.

The issue is fairly easy to recognize yet the problem is more elusive. We've spent billions of dollars in this nation on trying to teach parenting skills and to emphasize the importance of education. And yet the success is too small to measure.

It's time we recognize that all students are capable of success if given the proper tools at home. And it's also time that we recognize that in some homes, that approach will never be accepted. And thus, generational poverty and a lack of basic tools will continue to doom our society for the foreseeable future.

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