Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Now There's a Modest Proposal

I tend to believe that 90% of all the world's problems come from bad parenting.  Bernie Madoff, Roy Cohn, Snooki, you name it. Who raised these people?

Now, in the nature/nurture debate, I keep a foot in both camps. I think that bad parenting can trump good genes, and sometimes vice versa.

In the classroom, you confront the results of other folks' parenting decisions every day, for better or worse. Author/activist David Macaray describes it thusly:

In contrast to private schools, where entrance exams are required, tardiness and excessive absenteeism are not permitted, and recalcitrant students are routinely booted out of class, public schools are all-inclusive, warm body institutions. Attendance is not only free, it’s compulsory. It’s mandatory. Which means that many of the less motivated, poorly prepared students are going to come to regard it as one cut above prison. 
Because public school teachers have to play the hand they’re dealt, what are they supposed to do with a classroom full of uninspired, truant, tardy, undisciplined kids who are there only because the law requires it, and whose parents offer little or no support or encouragement? What are teachers expected to do with students as unprepared, and unreceptive as these? 
...Ask any public school teacher, and they’ll tell you that their “dream class” would consist of students who had gotten sufficient sleep the night before, eaten a nutritious breakfast, completed their homework assignments, and are sitting at their desks, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready and relatively eager to learn their lessons. The students don’t need to be budding geniuses or Junior Einsteins. They don’t even need to be above average. All they need to be is relatively prepared.
Macaray has a modest proposal for dealing with this entrenched societal problem, and its not mandatory parenting classes or birth licenses. It's not the Swiftian solution either, though it's likely to be similarly unpalatable for many. What is it? It's a click away.


  1. A segment of the film Freakonomis (netflix streaming) shows a university of chicago experiment to bribe 9th graders to do well in school. One of their conclusions: you need to start a lot earlier. Diana

  2. Right, we had all kinds of "incentives" for our kids at my last school - but the point here is that you need to bribe the parents. Of course, as they apply those funds towards self-identified need areas, the program could end up somewhat counterproductive after all.....