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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Parents and Teachers

A prosecutor in Detroit recently proposed locking up parents who skipped conferences with teachers. Research overwhelmingly shows that parental involvement in a child's education improves academic performance. But there are a lot of reasons why parents keep their distance — including cultural and class divisions. Guest host Jennifer Ludden speaks to Wayne County, Michigan prosecutor Kym Worthy about her proposal to punish parents, and National PTA president Chuck Saylors talks about what parents and teachers can do to work together more effectively. Also, Tracy McDaniel, who founded a KIPP school in Oklahoma, will share that program's radical approach to get parents more involved in their kids' schooling.

When I was in high-school, in Texas, I was depressed, often overslept, and failed to get to my first-period class several times per month. In Texas, the school roll was taken in 1st period, and in missing that class, I was costing the school $3500/semester.

They dragged my parents in for conferences, and threatened them with legal action, if I didn't go to school, my parents would be criminally charged and, after an expensive legal battle, potentially convicted.

Eventually, I was forced to go to 'alternative school' a kind of 'Juvenile Hall' for delinquents and truants. We were to sit behind glass eight hours per day, in isolation booths, and do our school work. I think it was the only time in three years that I was actually ahead on my class work.

As soon as I got out of that place, I dropped out of school. Disgusted with a school system that didn't respect the student, and didn't ask for our participation, and instead threatened us and our parents with jail, to extort our cooperation. I choose to leave rather than suffer. I'm an anomaly, at seventeen I was more competent than the school administrators, and smarter than my teachers and parents. That high-school was a toxic place for anyone with an independent mind and the intellect to question authority. They failed to 'educate' me, but I still achieved my education, the problem is that I never got the credit for what I achieved, and they never got the blame.

When we seek to teach, the first step must be a willing student. Schools exist, not for the school administrators to make quarter-million dollar salarys, but for the students. When we fail to acknowledge that underlying premise of education, we fail to teach.

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