Our view: Education and the need for a three-legged stool

August 7, 2013 9:51:38 AM



There is a cartoon that has been circulating through social media that seems relevant to today, which is the first day of school in the Golden Triangle. 


The cartoon is two panels and the panels are identical, with one important exception. The first panel is labeled "1960" and the second panel is labeled "Today." Each panel depicts two parents who are clearly upset. They are holding a test their child has recently taken and shouting, "This is unacceptable!"  


The difference in the two panels is that in the "1960" panel, the parents are yelling at the child. 


In the "Today" panel, they are yelling at the teacher. 


Clearly, the cartoonist is trying to make a point about how our society views accountability when it comes to education. In the "old days" parents held the child accountable. Now, it seems, it's the teacher's fault when little Johnny bombs on his geography quiz. 


While there is no denying that teachers are an easy target for the frustrations, not only of parents, but of our bureaucrats who talk about the importance of education but make only cosmetic efforts to address the issue, we argue that the cartoonist probably got it wrong. 


The "1960" panel is accurate enough. But the better depiction of the "Today" panel would be blank. The cry "This is unacceptable!" is heard from fewer and fewer parents these days. 


Yet show us a poorly-performing school and we will show you a school where parent involvement is limited.  


When earlier this year, Gov. Phil Bryant stumbled all over himself by attributing the decline in U.S. education to increase of working moms, he missed a fair greater factor, we believe. 


Where are the parents? How involved are they in their children's education? You won't find them at school board meetings, in most cases. You will find very few at PTA meetings. There was a time in this country when PTAs were one of the community's strongest institutions. Now, they are sparsely attended, if they exist at all. 


Only a handful of moms and dads volunteer at school functions. Granted, there are some schools that have impressive numbers of parents in booster clubs for various sports and extracurricular organizations. But you won't find any booster clubs for English or history or math. Too many parents, if they even bother to know what their children are doing in school, are far more inclined to assign blame than accept responsibility. 


The best schools are three-legged stools with students, teachers and parents, working together make the stool something a student can stand on with confidence. Remove one leg, and the stool is unstable, useless.  


The cartoon panel we should strive for depicts students, parents and teachers all in agreement, each accepting responsibility. 


When one leg is missing, everybody falls. 


The students and the much-maligned teachers will be there.  


Will the parents?