Whose responsibility is it to educate children? The answer is not the school.
It's the parents who are the only people responsible. Fortunately, we live in America where we have many resources to assist parents in the education of their children. Private schools, if you can afford it, public schools accept everyone and home schooling materials are abundantly available.
Our daughter attended an elementary school in which 69 percent of the households were single parent, low income families. The school held less than 250 children.
That is the maximum number an elementary school should have before the quality of education begins to drop, according to a PTA (Parent Teachers Association) survey in the 1980s. At the time, parents were very welcome in the school. We assisted the teachers in and out of the classrooms; therefore discipline was not an issue. We developed events that taught various values and behaviors. So even though the majority of parents were not available to attend meetings and events because they were working, there was enough parent involvement to keep the school peaceful and healthy. Students, who were motivated to learn, did.
However, there were many children who didn't know to which house they were going after school; grandparents', mom's, dad's, or a friend's. Consequently, no one followed up on their homework and no one accepted the primary responsibility for evaluating the child's progress or lack thereof. No one monitored their meals or their clothing. Some would arrive in school having had not only no breakfast, but no dinner either. On cold days, it was not unusual for a few to arrive without socks or a jacket. These children were at such a disadvantage that no amount of one-on-one tutoring could make up for the absence of a stable and healthy family.
Then a very unfortunate thing happened. As soon as our principal retired, his replacement was a woman who believed that once the child crossed over the school's threshold, that child no longer belonged to the parent. Parents had to make an appointment through the principal's office to see the teacher or to enter the classroom. Parents were not welcome in the school to run or assist at events, either during or after school hours. Parents were no longer involved in decisions affecting the children. Fortunately for our daughter, she went on to a middle school shortly after the new principal arrived. It wasn't long before crime increased in this elementary school and the best teachers retired or left. Taking over the parents' responsibility rarely works.
That's why conservatives decry the breakdown of the family. Wherever that breakdown is prevalent you can predict that the schools will be overwhelmed with discipline problems and low test scores. A healthy, family classroom in which children are encouraged to be self-motivated to learn and take responsibility for their own future is irreplaceable.
Conservatives are strong supporters of parental rights. Obviously, there are times when the child must accept the authority of someone other than their parents. The parents give temporary authority in specific situations; police, teachers, caregivers, etc. However, the ultimate authority always rests with the parents. Extreme cases of neglect are, of course, exceptions.
Benjamin Franklin said in 1749, "The good education of youth has been esteemed by wise men in all ages, as the surest foundation of the happiness both of private families and of common-wealths."
John Adams, 1756, said it best. "It should be your care ..., to elevate the minds of our children ...; to accelerate and animate their industry and activity; to excite in them an habitual contempt of meanness, abhorrence of injustice and inhumanity, and an ambition to excel in every capacity, faculty, and virtue."
Yet, MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry says in a spot for the network's "Lean Forward" campaign, "... we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents, or kids belong to their families, and recognize that kids belong to whole communities."
We cannot adopt the proposition that children are no longer their parents' exclusive responsibility. Let us remain focused on supporting parents in carrying out their responsibility to educate their children.
Let's meet again next Tuesday.
Nancy Sarowski is the president of Emmet County Republican Women. Her column appears each week. Contact Sarowski at email@example.com. You can learn more about the Emmet County Republican Women's group on Facebook.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and not necessarily of the Petoskey News-Review or its employees.