Are Parents to Blame for Their Kids' Academic Failures?

Report card
Will kids do better in school if their parents are legally accountable?

Do you beat yourself up if your child performs poorly in school? If you don’t, you should, according to some states. And if you don’t, they’ll do it for you.

Recent laws passed in Alaska and California allow schools to fine or bring parents up on charges if their kids miss school without a good reason frequently enough. Florida considered a bill that would issue reports cards on parents (not to, but on).

As Lisa Belkin writes in The New York Times:

Teachers are fed up with being blamed for the failures of American education, and legislators are starting to hear them . . . If you think you can legislate teaching, the notion goes, why not try legislating parenting? [T]he thinking goes like this: If you look at schools that “work,” as measured by test scores and graduation rates, they all have involved (overinvolved?) parents, who are on top of their children’s homework, in contact with their children’s teachers, and invested in their children’s futures. So just require the same of parents in schools that don’t work, and the problem is solved (or, at least, dented), right?

It used to be that how a child acted in class was thought to be a reflection of their parents, and at home, parents were supposed to reinforce to their children that in school, the teacher is boss. However, Belkin argues that these days, parents are more likely to point a finger at teachers, the tenure system and unions if their child isn’t succeeding in school.

Various legislation has been introduced in different states to try and crack down on slack parents, including a bill in Indiana requiring parents to spend three hours each semester volunteering either in the school building or at a school-related function to up the amount of parent-teacher interaction. This would give teachers a chance to talk to parents while also providing parents firsthand knowledge of the feel and requirements of the school.

Another bill in Florida would require teachers to grade parents on their involvement in their child’s education, and to post that grade on the child’s report card.

Not surprisingly, both bills have not been smiled upon by by parents. Some PTA groups have argued that what counts as “involvement” varies widely and means different things to different parents, and that defining a parents as “good” or “bad” is too subjective.

Neither measure made it to a vote.

But other states are not deterred. In Alaska, parents are fined for a child’s truancy. A misdemeanor charge can be brought against parents in California is their child’s truancy is seen as flagrant. And California also requires parents of gang members to attend parenting classes.

Some experts argue that the focus on punishing the parents is misguided, and instead the system should help educate the parents sooner on how to help their kids, and that the core problem is poverty.

While I think there’s much truth to the last point, I think there are plenty of parents who like to blame everyone else for their kids’ problems, and that many parents would do better if the spotlight shone on them when it came to their kids’ performance. If you’ve got nothing to be ashamed of and you know you’re giving it you’re all, then what have you got to lose by being graded?

How much, if any, responsibility do you think parents should accept if their kids perform poorly in school?

Image: Creative Commons

Source: The New York Times

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