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ORANGE COUNTY VOICES

Parents Must Take Role in Education

Many acknowledge the problems that falling test scores illustrate, yet are apathetic about their children's schools.

May 18, 1997|EILEEN SPATZ | Eileen Spatz is a mother of three. She writes from San Clemente

It is no secret that our public schools are failing in the important subjects of math, reading and science. Test scores continue to be released showing how dismally our students are performing. What is interesting, if not alarming, is how few parents seem to be concerned about their child's education. They appear to be in denial, acknowledging that problems may exist, but certainly not in their child's school. After all, many parents based their home purchase on the proximity of home to the local public school. This is especially true in the newer neighborhoods where new, high-tech schools are promoted by the developers as a selling tool.

This parental apathy is cause for concern because some very significant changes have been underway in public education, over the last five years especially, which are a direct cause of the failure of our children to learn and achieve. With the addition of the federal School-to-Work (STW) program, academics will be sacrificed even more. STW will focus the curriculum on gaining job skills instead of acquiring knowledge. It is not a lack of job skills which has lead to the education crisis. Instead, it is the lowering of standards combined with faddish, unsuccessful teaching techniques that led to the absence of both academic skills and a work ethic.

How many parents bother to question their child's teacher about the new teaching techniques in math and reading that aren't effective in teaching their child? I know several moms who discuss this all the time with me, but clam up when they sit in conference with the teacher. Parents tell me how their kid's teacher is allowing them to sit on the floor all day, or substituting math instruction with math games. They tell me how they have written off entire years as a total waste, and how sick they are of having to spend hours at night helping their child do tedious activities that have little or no academic value. They show me sixth-grade level spelling tests that a third-grader could ace.

Why, then, do these same unhappy parents refuse to become vocal and involved? Why don't they question the value of kids learning in groups all day, or the new politically correct history books that are so negative about our history? Why don't they complain about the de-emphasis on memorizing math facts, or the hugely over-emphasized environmentalism?

Many parents have been lulled into an apathetic state by their district's public relations machine, which assures them that "high standards" are being taught and "critical thinking" is emphasized. If they only knew how false these statements are. But how many parents make the effort to review their child's textbooks and assignments with a critical eye? Yes, technology is important, but nothing will replace the need to compute, read and write properly.

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