(NY Times) Thomas Friedman–How About Better Parents?

In recent years, we’ve been treated to reams of op-ed articles about how we need better teachers in our public schools and, if only the teachers’ unions would go away, our kids would score like Singapore’s on the big international tests. There’s no question that a great teacher can make a huge difference in a student’s achievement, and we need to recruit, train and reward more such teachers. But here’s what some new studies are also showing: We need better parents. Parents more focused on their children’s education can also make a huge difference in a student’s achievement.

How do we know? Every three years, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or O.E.C.D., conducts exams as part of the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, which tests 15-year-olds in the world’s leading industrialized nations on their reading comprehension and ability to use what they’ve learned in math and science to solve real problems ”” the most important skills for succeeding in college and life. America’s 15-year-olds have not been distinguishing themselves in the PISA exams compared with students in Singapore, Finland and Shanghai.

Read it all.


Posted in * Culture-Watch, Children, Education, Marriage & Family

8 comments on “(NY Times) Thomas Friedman–How About Better Parents?

  1. Hakkatan says:

    I know quite a few teachers (especially since my wife is an elementary school teacher) and they would all shout a rousing agreement with this article. Also needed are administrators who seek to support teachers with discipline and supplies, rather than ignore the needs of teachers or, even worse, regard teachers as “the enemy.”

  2. Albany+ says:

    Finally the obvious is said. The reason, of course, why it will never be acted upon is that these parents are also “voters.” You can’t say to a voter, “You are the problem.” And so we go on the endless witch hunt at the schools rather than look at the culture at home.

  3. AnglicanFirst says:

    I agree with Friedman on this one.

    A family’s attitude toward educational achievement is critical.

  4. paradoxymoron says:

    #2: I think it’s pretty unlikely that people from that demographic actually vote. The bigger problem is that they’re located in municipalities that have governments dominated by municipal unions. And that these schools are filled with the children of the most unskilled people that Mexico has to offer, and are dependent upon the welfare state for services, and thus have quite a few incentives to avoid rocking the boat, and agitating for improvement. They’re in a catch-22: the awful status quo, or supporting Republicans that risk deporting them.

  5. Teatime2 says:

    Yes, the insufficient parent is a problem but what isn’t addressed enough is the damage done by the helicopter parent. Regarding problem-solving skills and creativity, the overly involved parent is just as damaging, IMO.

    Maybe more so, now that I’m thinking more about it. The kid who truly wants a good education and a better life but has disinterested parents has to be more resourceful and deliberate about getting his or her needs met. The kids of helicopter parents don’t even have to ask — their days and activities are decided on and paid for by their parents who are there with their SUVs to deposit said child at points A, B, C, D, etc.

    I’ve taught the well-off and the poorest of the poor. The well-off kids whose parents micro-managed their overly directed lives were in the same boat as the kids who were neglected when it came to creativity, problem-solving, and higher-level cognitive skills such as synthesis and evaluation. They were at a loss if someone wasn’t telling them precisely what to do and coordinating their every minute.

    Today in our local newspaper we have a column written by a local mum who was answering a question posed to her: What do we do to keep our kids happy while the adults are engaged with the final Thanksgiving dinner preparations. Seriously?! Well, gee, I don’t know — send them outside to play a game in the yard? Allow them to play board games, hide and go seek, or color inside? Is it really necessary to micro-manage kids all of the time? It’s why they don’t have any imagination or coping skills.

  6. Hakkatan says:

    Teatime, I was thinking of the same things you said. Kids need some “ant-watching time” to really develop, time when they can wonder, ask questions, talk with friends, and so on, without being hovered over. We tried to be involved in our kids lives, but to let them choose most of their activities, and to make sure they had time to do nothing.

    I have heard some parents say that the way to keep kids off drugs was to “keep them busy.” But without meaningful interaction with adults – relaxed but engaged time – business does not satisfy and leads to drugs anyway.

  7. Albany+ says:

    I believe you are underestimating how bad suburban schools have become. The issue is both character and morality.

    # 6. You are so right. We must not confuse intellectual development with “achievement” which is this Nation is almost always construed economically. Such thinking is akin to saying that the purpose of food is a bowel movement.

  8. Teatime2 says:

    Hakkatan #6, I agree. And, as earnest adults will admit, there’s only so much “busyness” one can endure before the issues that would emerge during quiet time show up, anyway. Adults can make a choice to perpetuate the busy, engineered madness but it saddens me to see children trained up in it. It’s an additional obstacle they’ll have to overcome at some point, not an asset.