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Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014

Tattoo isn't biggest issue in education

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Education in the United States faces a host of challenges these days as the headlines clearly illustrate. Test scores are lagging in virtually all categories, drop-out rates continue to be a persistent problem especially in the inner cities and teachers' salaries remain a barrier to attracting sufficient candidates in some areas.

But one problem that seems trivial in the arena of education would be the question of tattoos on teachers. But don't tell that to the Joplin, Mo., School Board. That body will take up the "controversial" issue of tattoos on teachers at their next meeting.

An Associated Press story this week indicates that Board members in Joplin plan to address the tattoo question at their next meeting. Younger teachers coming into the school system are apparently more "comfortable" with tattoos and the school officials in Joplin want to discuss the matter.

Now I have great respect for Joplin and count a number of friends there. But I'm puzzled that this issue would generate Board discussion given the countless more pressing issues facing education.

I have always said that the largest crisis facing schools is the lack of parental involvement. And yes, school boards recognize this problem and make efforts to involve parents in every manner possible.

But in the education community, we still lack the effective tools to teach parents that they are an extremely important piece of the education puzzle.

In an irony of timing, earlier this week I was watching some mindless comedy on television and the comedian was urging parents to press for better schools to assure their children were receiving proper education.

Now granted, it was a comedy and not a social discussion. But not once were the parents urged to ask their child if they had homework or needed help on a project, etc. The blame was put squarely on the schools and the teachers to educate our children at the level we deem appropriate.

When schools spend useless time discussing hair color or appropriate T-shirts or even tattoos we send a signal that these minor issues are somehow important to promote appropriate education. They are not.

Discipline is essential, respect is essential and parental involvement is essential. With these three elements, schools can thrive and students can learn.

I once had a college professor who bemoaned the university's attempt at a dress code. He said he wasn't concerned about what his students wore, he was concerned about what his students learned. And he was right.

Would a teacher with massive facial tattoos be a disruption? Probably so. But then again, is this really a problem that has risen to the level to prompt such a discussion? I suspect not.

Of course, here's the problem. Around the coffee shops of Joplin, the small talk will surround teachers and tattoos. It will never broach the needed topic of parents who send unprepared children to school and expect the teachers to perform miracles. Discipline, respect and manners should be taught in the home so that the teachers can provide the important lessons appropriate for the school.

Unfortunately, we talk of tattoos and pink hair because we can "solve" these issues. We have yet found the key to mandating that parents understand their role in the arena of education.