This article is Ancient (archive 2011)

Why “Suburban” Parents Scare Me More than “Urban” Students

When I told my father that I wanted to teach in a public school in Chicago, he asked if I wanted him to buy me a bullet-proof vest. I have found out that many perceive of inner city schools as a war zones. Unfortunately, I have contributed to this idea. But the possibility of physical violence against me isn’t what keeps me up at night. The thing that keeps me up at night is this, parents.

Parental Activism: Standing up for your kid, and only your kid

One could argue that much parents without the time, resources, energy, ability, or interest to prevent it cause much of the violence in schools, but, with the best of intentions, parents with these resources cause much of the violence directed towards schools. Mobs of angry parents upset about the actions of a school are not new, and parental activism has successfully addressed problems before. In fact, parental involvement can foster self-motivation in students.

Still, there is a line. Some parents (those who feel motivated at all) feel extremely motivated to advocate for their children. A fellow teacher in my classes was once speaking about how she had to fight to keep her kids in honors classes, because to have them removed would damage their chances at a good future, but for every parent fighting to keep their kid in an honors class there will be another student knocked out of the class simply because the parents didn’t raise a fuss. This doesn’t concern the other parents though; they are trying to do what is best for their child, and who can blame them.

Parents vs. School, Kids Lose

Why can’t parents channel the collective anger and outrage they can generate over their children having to accommodate children with severe allergies toward something more worthwhile, like the removal of tracking from schools? We all obviously care about the well-being of their children, however, we are stuck competing with each other.

The current antagonism that exists between some schools and the parents prevents either from helping students. This isn’t surprising considering most parents only encounter their children’s teachers when problems arise, and there child is fantastic so the problem is obviously the school. Open dialogue between schools and parents needs to be the standard and not the exception. Perhaps with some more genuine interpersonal contact we can reduce some of that antagonism. All parents should know how their kid is doing in school, whether well or not so well, and teachers, principles and staff, not report cards and newsletters should be the ones to tell them.

Maybe then parents and teachers could resolve issues like a peanut allergy before they become a media boxing match between people supposedly working towards the same goal.

So where is the line between advocacy and madness? Why do we obsess over intrusive government, but not obtrusive parenting? How much responsibility do schools have to parent those who aren’t parented?

Donny got a BA in English, which he thought meant badass, but then he got to the real world. Now he realizes it means bitter academic. Donny did a stint in grad school with a focus on education, which made him angry enough to start writing columns. While education is still his main focus, Donny now wants to apply his academic rigor to other mundane activities.