Both presidential hopefuls are calling on parents to take on more responsibility in the education of their children. Even teachers request more of parents in helping young people achieve academically.
This is ironic, because in the past, schools and classrooms were educators’ responsibility. It was assumed that parents were undereducated, untrained or too busy working to assist children in school matters. Some of the shift in attitude in who is to blame for school underachievement has come about due to more racial, ethnic, linguistic and cultural diversity in schools.
As a nation, families in poverty and parents of minority children sometimes have been deemed “bad parents,” or parents who do not wholeheartedly care for their children or value education. Therefore, it only seems natural, as schools become more and more diverse, that “those parents” will be blamed for the unprecedented school failure witnessed in many high-density, high-poverty or rural schools. Before I move on, let me state for the record that parents often blame teachers.
As someone who teaches pre-service and veteran teachers, school administrators and school service personnel, while having experience working across diverse student population groups, I have moved beyond the blame game. Suffice it to say, from my vantage point, the U.S. educational system is in need of repair due to decades of neglect and ideological strife.
My point here is to call for a swift halt to the blame game. All of the aforementioned stake-holders in public education are strapped for resources. The federal government is coping with a trillion-dollar deficit; many public school teachers are working before school, after school, weekends and summers to make financial ends meet; and many of the parents who can find work are stuck in lower-sector jobs with low wages, little benefits, and non-traditional hours. (I am a full-time college professor who also works non-traditional hours to accommodate working students.)
For parents who cannot find paid labor, they are simply trying to cope mentally and physically with distressing times including access to quality housing and schools, televised wars, community violence, and family disconnect. In current times, no one entity can feasibly carry the burden of educating America’s students — at any level. The proverbial village is simply not enough to educate the child. We all must play our part as citizens of a democracy to ensure that young people are equipped to take on future roles in government, business, community advocacy and the family.
Those who have money need to share the wealth. Those who are mentally and physically able, must volunteer more time with young people in schools and community organizations. Corporations must value human beings as much as profit. State and national governments must reconsider the benefits of equal funding in education, and a child’s ZIP code should not determine how much will be spent on his/her education.
Lastly, no one has the right to blame the parents for underachievement. Parents are an easy target because they are too busy raising children and making ends meet to fight back on social media, in higher education classrooms, or at school board meetings. We all must view the educational crisis in our nation’s most vulnerable school communities as our problem.
Venus E. Evans-Winters (@ileducprof), associate professor of education, teaches at Illinois State University in the department of Educational Administration & Foundations and is a faculty affiliate in Women & Gender Studies. She teaches in the areas of educational policy, qualitative research and critical race theory and pedagogy. Her research interests are the schooling experiences of urban children and adolescents, school resilience and cultural-learning communities. She is the author of “Teaching Black Girls: Resiliency in Urban Classrooms” as well as several academic articles and book chapters.