Thursday, August 25, 2011

Government Reform

Government does not trust parents to raise their children. Anyone in government would argue that this is not true, but I see it everywhere. It's not just government, it's teachers, business, therapists etc. We have a culture of professionals that know more, know better, know the answers and we the parents are left a bit flummoxed as to how to raise our kids. Government tries it's darnest to help, to close the gap between the have's and the have nots, but they fail to see many things. First, how are the have's and have nots defined? Is it strictly socioeconomic or are there other conditions factored in? WARNING: I'm about to get very honest and not at all politically correct. The government tries to help but in essence creates some unintended consequences. One of the first problems created by this atmosphere of professionals and government programs is that it undermines parents and families. I have spoken with several young unwed mothers who have very honestly told me that they live with their child's father but that there are no plans to get married because the government gives unwed mothers so much help in the form of money, free programs etc., that it doesn't financially behoove them to get married. Granted a few mother's is not a scientific study, but I bet I'm not too far off the mark in saying that government programs are hindering the creation of families and not aiding them. In trying to help young mother's get a head start the government programs are actually keeping them in poverty, both financially and spiritually, because it's hindering their pursuit of a better life. The life the government provides is "good enough", certainly too good to try a something different.

So government involvement in schools is no different. Government officials try, they try so hard to close the gap between the rich and the poor. They try to create programs that "will leave no child behind", yet instead of raising the bar across the board the programs have widen the gap and in the worst case scenarios they have lower the performance across the board. After a decade of NCLB, we still have failing schools, we still have children who do not meet standards, we have disgruntled (and rightly so) teachers and we have frustrated parents.

Government claims to have the child's best interest in mind. I don't believe it. I think even the best intentioned politician ultimately has his/her career front and center. They will try to do right by the children, but only so long as it doesn't hurt their career. They talk themselves into believing that if they lose their seat, they won't be able to help out during the next term. They remain silent because they want their voice to be heard. Unions claim to have the best interest of children in mind, and perhaps they come a little closer to the mark. They after all are the voice of the dedicated teachers that struggle to teach the lowliest among us. However, the teachers are not our children. When unions rail against change, any change because it could hindered the teacher's employment or benefits no matter how worthy the cause, it is still not a concern for our children. Teacher's themselves are stuck between a rock and a hard place. They are in the front line dealing with the children they serve, the obnoxious parents, the overbearing administration. They are in constant flux year in and year out regarding their employment, all the while concerned with the livelihood of their own families. Really it's so much that any true concern for the children is trumped by all the other things going on.

Which brings me to the parent. We are the only ones who can truly have our own children's best interest in mind, but the government can't trust us. I can't say that I can really blame them. I too often see why they feel a need to step in. I have often tried to step in myself and "help" a parent who I think is struggling. My eagerness to help is rarely met with enthusiasm or gratitude. Usually my help is met with resistance, indignation and hostility. I however, unlike the government am not offering money or free programs, so my help is usually rejected. So what is a government to do when dealing with such vast difference in attitudes, socioeconomic levels, religious differences, cultural differences etc? Well I think they can fearlessly open the gates of choice. I know that this is quite controversial. Charter schools, vouchers, online learning, private schools, public schools, special programs, continuation school, evening classes, why not just offer it all up as the ultimate sacrifice on the altar of our children. Really give parents a choice and a voice on how their children will be educated. Give parents back the responsibility of raising their kids. What will happen to schools and teachers if the flood gates of education are opened wide? You know, my concern is MY children and THEIR future. I'm sure that well educated teachers will figure it out, isn't that ultimately when a good education is useful?

Stay tuned for the next post: Parent Reform