Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Drowning in a Sea of Hypocrisy

Although I am sure that a number of people will be writing on this story about "helicopter parents," so far I have not seen anything that points out the inherent hypocrisy in this story.

The lead in the Washington Post article reads:
They are needy, overanxious and sometimes plain pesky -- and schools at every level are trying to find ways to deal with them.

No, not students. Parents -- specifically parents of today's "millennial generation" who, many educators are discovering, can't let their kids go.
and continues thusly
To handle the modern breed of micromanaging parent, educators are devising programs to help them separate from their kids -- and they are taking a harder line on especially intrusive parents.

At seminars, such as one in Phoenix last year titled "Managing Millennial Parents," they swap strategies on how to handle the "hovercrafts" or "helicopter parents," so dubbed because of a propensity to swoop in at the slightest crisis.


Teachers and principals in the early grades began noticing changes in parents in the 1990s. Parents began spending more time in classrooms. Then they began calling teachers frequently. Then came e-mails, text messages -- sometimes both at once. Today schools are trying to figure out how to take back a measure of control.

Some parents who once had unlimited access to classrooms or school hallways are being kicked out, principals say. Teachers are refusing to meet with parents they consider abusive, some say. A number of private schools have added language in their enrollment contracts and handbooks warning that a student can be asked to leave as a result of a parent's behavior. Some have tossed out children because their parents became too difficult to work with.
I should note that no teacher or administrator should have to deal with an verbally abusive parent, but refusing to meet with such parents is not going to resolve the parent's issue. Simply have the meeting with several people present, including, if possible a lawyer. (Note: nothing smooths out abusive people than having an opposing lawyer present--it is amazing how well-mannered people get.)

Next, I will readily admit that some parents go too far in trying to protect their kids. I will also admit that when my daughters start school, I will probably be a terror to teachers and principals, because I will demand accountibility, mutual respect, and responsiveness. I expect no less of my elected representatives and I demand no less of those whose salaries are paid with my tax money.

However, having said that, I want my girls to be savvy, indepedent women in their own right. It is bad enough that in 7 or 8 years I will be completely uncool and be relegated to serve only as their bank and taxi service, but I don't need to be needlessly involving myself in their every little mistake nor protesting the grades the earn.

Yet, when I read stories about how schools are having difficulty getting parents engaged in their child's education, I wonder, what could the schools be doing to make that happen or not happen. After reading some of the comments in this story by educators, I get a glimmer of understanding.

Schools want parents involved, but only to the extent that schools are willing to permit!! Anything beyond the "come to our parent/teacher conferences, show up at school events, make sure you kid does their homework, and sign you kid's report card" apparently becomes a burden upon the schools. It is an extension of the "nanny state" mentality, that the school system knows better than parents what is best for their kids and parents should just let the schools manage everything, except when it comes time for the limited parental involvement. The situations described in this story are most likely on the extreme side, but you cannot help but notice the hypocrisy dripping off the edges of this story like so much educratese molasses.

So what is really the source of the parental involvement. The story seems to indicate that it is function of the "symbolic value of children" that drives parents to be overly involved in their child's life. However, I wonder how much of it stems from the distrust that many American parents now have of our schools.

Distrust of the public school system in general seems to be driving this aspect of helicopter parental behavior. For decades we have been hearing that our schools are in decline, that they no longer effectively educate our children. Has that mentality (and I am a big purveyor of that position) finally taken root to the extent that parents now fight tooth and nail to make sure their kids get a decent education?

By the same token, the school system draws the line in the wrong place. When helicopter parents swoop in, how many schools will cave under the relentless pressure of out of bounds parents? How many principals and teachers will say, "you have a point about little Johnny and Jane, but your kids are the ones who did poorly on the test, or can't behave in class, or didn't do their homework. Their marks are a reflection of your child's effort and you lack of effort to police their activity." The answer, I fear is not nearly enough. the result, coddled kids who can't think for themselves, or live with the consequences of their actions, without parental intervention.

Whoa!! Quite a rant. I will leave it there for now.

No comments: