I read two really good post recently on Facebook from two parents. (1) Advice to parents seeking to get their child into a NYC specialized high school. And (2) a reflection on a parent-teacher conference meeting; and they got me to thinking…
What good parents understand (if not ideologically, then instinctively), is that public education in this nation reflects, and is driven by the “free enterprise” ideal, everything is commercialized, every person is reduced to a commodity, it is a culture of brutal competition. And therefore, unfortunately public schools, being agents of the societal culture, have adopted a “sifting process” (haves-have nots/winners and winners not!) to nourish and sustain that system. Just sending your child to public school and hoping for the best to happen, is a bad odds lottery decision (And in my view would constitute “insufficient parenting”; regardless of the parent’s level of education or finances).
If students are to survive, and hopefully thrive in public schools, then they need serious parental oversight, protection and the advocation for the best learning experience available to the child. And parents need good information to be able to effectively play that role.
The small number of children who succeed without, or in spite of their parents are “Educational-Jedi”, who are super-motivated and blessed in a way that even after 30+ years in the field, is beyond my understanding. Students can also “luck up”, and get into a school where the staff and administration are professionally competent, serious practitioners of efficacy, as they give full purpose and meaning to the phrase: In loco parentis (Latin: “In the place of a parent”).
Public schools (and I love them!) are not the places where you want children, including teenagers, “fending for themselves”. In part because we employ the full spectrum (and to be honest, too many who are completely “off the spectrum”!) of human personality types. The: uninspired, the disinterested, the “uncalled” to educational service, those with low self-esteem, steeped in prejudice, blinded by bias, the insecure, the insincere, the incompetent and the completely clueless! You can’t just thrust a child into such a system and expect things to “magically” turn out right. Good parents are really conscious and good at directing their children around the system’s terrible organizational and operational mine fields; and safely into those garden spaces where public education really does its best work. (No accident that both of my posting parents went to really excellent high schools!)
Many parents of special education students are already very aware of the need for continuous and consistent parental oversight, engagement and advocacy on behalf of their child. They are indeed, the main: “trust, but monitor and verify”, parents of our system!
I wish that it was true that any parent, could just send their child to any school district, public school, and to any teacher’s class; and that child’s gifts, talents and life aspirations could be fully realized. But this is not what presently exist. Sadly, for too many students, zip code, color, gender, and/or ethnicity; greatly determines their educational achievement destiny. And good parents know that. And so they have created a counter narrative of a “Crib to 12th grade graduation” commitment/plan to be fully engaged with their child’s public school educational life!
And as I have warned thousands of parents; middle-high school is not the place to go into “Rest and Relaxation” mode; in fact you need to turn-it up a notch to match the “at risk” danger level going up; no matter how much talent and smartness your child displays! And when that belief and understanding is shared with other parents; I believe that act blesses the child who receives that information, as well as the child of the parent who shared that information.