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Sunday, July 11, 2010

School Improvement: Will Parental Involvement Help?

They say that it takes a village to raise a child. To be what? Village idiot? Village prostitute? Village drunk? Village ne'er do well? These are not failures of village education but roles integral to certain kinds of community life. Without the fallen, the at-risk, the tempted, those we celebrate as moral leaders would have little to do in a village.

Comfortable educators purveying their wares to an increasingly comfortable clientele sentimentalize beyond historical recognition the outcomes of village life. These outcomes were usually not very good for the majority of village dwellers.

The modern school is desperately seeking the glue to hold it together. What were previously the byproducts of achievement -- self-esteem and other good feelings -- are now directly pursued, independently of any concerns for merit. But there is a consequence: the loss of self-esteem and other good feelings as motivators. If you can get the pay-off without doing the work, why do the work?

We have seen a great unwashed skepticism become the moral substrate of our society: Everything is not only suspected of selfish contamination, but is often celebrated for it. "Deferred gratification" -- the driving force of the famous Protestant Ethic -- is now an oxymoron; indeed, a threat to the very economic stability of our credit-card civilization.

Involving parents in schooling sounds positive at face value, but before calling for a mass parental march into schools, should we not examine the values parents bring with them to determine if school-parent partnerships are really a good idea?

To examine these issues further, see School and Family: A Partnership for Educational Success?

Cordially