For most of my thirty years in education, one of the constant laments was that parents weren’t involved enough in their children’s education. The general idea was that if parents were involved more, there would be higher student achievement and better student behavior. This idea was created out of the fact that in the past, kids knew that if they misbehaved at school there would be consequences there and then at home.
I once got in trouble for challenging my social studies teacher in class. I don’t remember exactly what he was telling us, but I know it had something to do with politics and the election. I blurted out, interupting him with my most sarcastic thirteen year old tone, “Is that a fact?” I was questioning his honesty. ( Hard to imagine that I would do that, I know.)
He was not happy at my rude behavior and I got in trouble. Then he called my parents and told them.
My father, who was career military, was more than NOT happy. We sat down and had a “come to Jesus” talk about respecting teachers and not being a rude jerk. It wasn’t a Ward Cleaver moment either. He stared at me with those eyes that could put fear in your heart, and let me know that this was inexcusable and it would NOT happen again. My mother followed it up with her support and I believe I was relieved of some of the fun activities I enjoyed for about a week.
Of course, this was in the late 60’s. Nowadays, what I did would be just another classroom discussion! But, it is an example of how parents were involved in education at least in a support role.
This is not what I found to be true when I was a teacher, for the most part. Yes, there were some parents that you could count on to hold their child accountable for both academic achievement and behavior, but they were in the minority. Thus, teachers and administrators were always moaning about lack of parental support.
As time went on however, either educators gave up on parental support or they decided it wasn’t important. And parents, either through a lack of time or interest, stopped being involved. Or maybe they merely trusted the schools to do what was right for their children.
Because of that, things started changing in schools.
At first, it was generally accepted that parents would come to conferences for their younger, elementary age children, but not older kids. On parent conference days, elementary teachers’ days were filled with appointments; secondary teachers had basically a free day. Even Back to School nights were sparsely attended. Parents were busy. Parents were working. Parents just didn’t care.
Some schools attempted to arrange conferences at a time when parents could attend, such as outside regular work and school hours. It may have brought in a few parents, but not many.
That’s when education systems began to realize that while it might be nice to have parental involvement in the PTA or fundraising activities, constant contact between teachers and parents just wasn’t important. In fact, in some ways, it was an annoyance. So, the void was created where parental involvement had previously been.
Into this void stepped several players.
The first players were the unions. Remember, in a previous blog I told you that unions didn’t really care about teachers that much ( only spending 5 cents out of every dollar earned to actually advocate for teachers’ issues.) But, this was a no-brainer for them. Unions figured they could promote this issue, working outside of school hours, in order to limit how much time teachers had to devote to meetings, parent conferences, etc. outside the school day AND to look like they were really doing something.
So, the school sytems tried a work around on the new limits. They allowed teachers to have “comp” time for having to stay late for conferences. Or, even better, they let teachers come in several hours later on designated parent conference days.
It didn’t really work that well. Again, parents were too busy, too intimidated, too nonchalant to attend. After all, unless their child was failing, in special education programs, or about to be expelled from school altogether, they assumed he/she was doing okay. And no one on the education side was interested in saying otherwise. Just pass them all and do “in-school suspension” for poor behavior. And with grade inflation becoming the new standard, the parents were quiet.
There were others who filled the void. More on that later.
Everyone was happy. The schools did what they wanted, the kids did what they wanted, and people thought things were going great. This was despite terrible test scores and other signs of little to no academic growth.
Teachers decided that they didn’t need parents either.
There were a few outliers who started to notice that something was off in our educational system, but no one listened to them.
And then 2020 happened.
All of a sudden, parents who were “non-essential” workers got to see first hand, over Zoom and other tech platforms, exactly what was being taught in the children’s classrooms. And they were appalled and angered.
You see, during that void of parental involvement, other groups stepped up. They stepped up in the guise of community organizations, mental health advocates, and the Progressive/Marxist “social justice” warriors. And, with them came money, big money, funding all kinds of programs in the schools, programs that taught something way outside their responsibility or rights.
A crop of new teachers were hired, and these new teachers had been told in their teacher training programs in college that the main focus of any teacher was to teach his/her students values, political beliefs, and “social justice.” These new teachers joined in with great zest, especially after the school systems reinforced their new missions with the stated goals of “equity” rather than “equality.”
(By the way, based on the recent state testing scores, the colleges have made their point effectively. In the most recent test data in Maryland, only 35% of students scored proficient or higher in English/Language Arts, 39% scored proficient or higher in science, and 15% scored proficient or higher in math. This is in grades 3-8. Read those scores again. This means that 65% are not even proficient in E/LA, 61% are not proficient in science, and a whopping 85% are not proficient in Math. Educators will chalk it up to the lost classroom time due to Covid and that might be partly true. However, if they were so concerned about lost academic growth, why haven’t they eliminated lessons/activities that have NOTHING to do with academics so they could spend more time in those areas? That will be a blog entry of its own.)
So, back to the teachers parents saw in the various virtual lessons that teachers were presenting; lessons that were offensive, useless, incorrect and/or harmful to children. This could be why a warning to parents was sent out after the implementation of virtual lessons that parents SHOULD NOT observe or even be in the same room with their child during virtual classes. Administrators said that parents were helping kids during class, were making too much noise etc. While those may have been true, it is more likely that school systems didn’t want parents to see what was going on.
And no wonder. What parent will stand idly by while the teacher tells their child that their parents are “stupid” or that “all White people are racist and all Black people are victims”? Which parent will tolerate their child’s exposure to graphic sexual texts at any grade, much less the primary grades? And do you know a parent nodding in agreement as their kindergarten child is being told they can “decide” which sex they want to be? As a gay friend told me, “I don’t care what sexual preference you have, you don’t want your young child exposed to sexual material of ANY kind.”
But, once those cats were out of the virtual bag, parents began to wake up. They suddently saw that their child was being indoctrinated instead of educated, groomed instead of being taught to think.
With this going on prior to the reopening of schools and the inclusion of useless, ridiculous mask mandates, parents became activated.
They realized that maybe these people running the government schools were out of control. They started complaining to principals, supervisors, and superintendents. Unfortunately, most of the administrators didn’t think their complaints were worth listening to. They either dismissed the complaints or didn’t answer them at all.
The next stop was the Boards of Education because theoretically these were the people who could do something about this mess. Unfortunately, many county school boards, including ours here in Talbot, had begun the weird practice of restricting in person meetings to only ten community participants. Did they know something was coming?
Maybe. We saw it in Loudon County, Virginia as parents spoke with emotion to inattentive and rude school board members regarding the implementation of lessons that were both racist and sexually inappropriate in schools. Even more, they had seen the administration in their county hide the rape of students in the school bathrooms in order to protect a trans-sexual student. Similar events occurred all over the United States with meetings getting heated at times.
Instead of taking a good, hard look at why the parents were so angry, the National Association of School Boards took another approach, writing to the White House and the US Attorney General asking for help in controlling these parents, who they called “domestic terrorists.” The Biden regime and Merrick Garland gladly complied, calling on the FBI to investigate parents who showed up at meetings. This led to arrests and even SWAT teams sent to one woman’s home because she dared to speak against the local school system.
He never mentioned that his son had a company that was part of the CRT, social indoctrination system. Must have forgotten. Or maybe he was so focused on the Marxist mission of making examples out of those who think for themselves that he ignored the fact that the American people, for the most part, don’t like government suppressing free speech.
It didn’t go well for Merrick or his boss Mr. Biden. The backlash, even among people in their party, was very negative. How could they designate moms and dads as terrorists merely complaining about their child’s education? People saw it for what it was. Tyrannical, self serving over-reach.
Most true educators, the ones who want what is truly best for their students, have no interest in usurping the role of the parent in a child’s life. But, those who tend to rise to the top of a school system have a different agenda, self preservation.
The good news is that those people can’t fool us anymore. If they can’t do what is right for the kids, parents will either take their kids to other schools, will home school, or will keep fighting back.
A Stanford Graduate School of Education/New York Times study of 70,000 public schools in 33 states showed that they experienced a 3-4 percent decrease in the student populations ( about 1.5 million pupils according to the National Center for Education Statistics) as kids were pulled for either private schools or homeschooling. The decrease was more dramatic in pre-K and kindergarten, where public schools lost 13 percent of their students. The total lost from grades Pre-K to 12 is the biggest decline since the turn of the century. Maryland alone lost 2.96 % of their enrollment.
Many parents cited both mandates for masks and/or vaccines as well as the realization that schools had gone beyond academics into political indoctrination as their motivation to leave. And it wasn’t just conservative parents, but progressives as well. The progressive parents had been some of the public schools’ most stalwart supporters. But even the most liberal parents want their child to actually learn, grow and succeed.*
This will impact the schools in many ways, especially since most school funding formulas depend on the enrollment of the public schools in each district. Money will be lost and with it, staff. As parents realize that their tax dollars are supporting a system they no longer benefit from, they will go to government officials to demand that the tax dollars from their paychecks go to support private school or homeschool efforts.
And the Unions, who have benefited from their carve outs from Covid funds and the election of their party of choice in D.C., may soon find their ranks thinning and their influence waning.
The best impact to the school system will probably be found in a new crop of candidates for school board positions; people who won’t see the position as a rubber stamp for virtue signalling, authoritarian Superintendents. They will read the policies, know the rules, and hold the schools to higher standards than those who currently serve.
And maybe, at some point, the schools will regain parents’ trust, but it will be hard earned. Once the public discovers that their children will do better and learn more away from public education, they are not likely to come back. And if they do, they will be a group of involved, hands on parents. They won’t tolerate the same abuses that have occurred in the last 20 years. Hopefully, the schools will appreciate them because they will have learned their lesson. The hard way.
*Talbot County Public Schools mission statement.