You’d think by now we could all just accept that there’s no silver bullet for improving education in the U.S. But New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman gives it a shot anyway.
In his weekend op-ed titled “How About Better Parents?” he concludes that if U.S. kids are to be more competitive with the high-scorers on international exams such as Finland and Singapore, U.S. parents need to improve. “We need better parents. Parents more focused on their children’s education can also make a huge difference in a student’s achievement,” Friedman writes.
At least he’s not blaming the teachers.
Friedman has distilled this formula for success from a study conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The OECD is the group that administers the Program for International Student Assessment, an exam given every three years to 15-year-olds around the world. Outcomes of the PISA are how we get those scary rankings, the ones where American students don’t break the top 10 for math, science or reading, results that get the media calling out for another Sputnik moment. What the OECD has found is that, in the countries studied, those students whose parents read to them when they were kids and stayed interested in them through the teen years scored significantly higher on the test than their friends with less-involved parents.
Conclusion: American parents are failing their kids. Ouch!
Just asking your teen about what they’re doing at school had the impact of all kinds of private tutoring, according to the study. Reading, telling stories and showing an interest in what the child is doing at school boosted points much more than just playing with the child.
Sure, this is all good information, but just asking parents to be “better” is about as useful to education as condemning the teachers’ union. Of course education is a big old group project, one that necessarily includes parents. But it’s a broken system if it can’t find a work-around to educate kids whose parents can’t or won’t read to them. A true system of universal education has to get to those kids whose parents might not be there or, if they are, just might not care.
This OECD certainly reinforces the impact parents can have on how their children learn, how teens apply themselves to their education. Certainly, the nation’s kids would benefit if more parents read to their young children and stayed engaged with their teens. Let’s spread the news.
Education reform, though, is about reaching all children. Simply pointing a finger at parents isn’t a magical — or even practical — fix.
More on school: 28 ways to make your kid’s teacher like you