Over the past three weeks, I’ve painted a rather grim view of modern education in America, suggesting that children emerge from school with only a small fraction of the training necessary to be complete, fulfilled human beings, and that they are generally being molded in accord with the needs of government and not the needs of families and individuals.
So who is to blame for this state of affairs?
Is it our governments, who consistently move money around instead of addressing the fundamental flaws in modern education? The corporations who run about trying to buy our children’s minds for 30 pieces of silver? The school boards that turn them over with a kiss?
No. The Catechism gives a clear answer.
Expert behavior specialists and educational dogmatists can only succeed in enacting their vision of education on children if parents let them. The responsibility to ensure that this does not happen lies in the family.
So where do we begin?
“Parents,” according to the Code of Canon Law, “must cooperate closely with the teachers of the schools to which they entrust their children to be educated.”
Knowing your child’s teachers, and maintaining a close relationship with them, is an invaluable help to staving off apathy and frustration among the teaching profession.
A parent who only comes in when they are appalled by the sex-ed curriculum is likely to be dismissed as a backwards crank. One whom the teacher has been cooperating with all year is much more likely to receive a fair hearing about problems.
Make sure that you know what your children are being taught, and discuss it with them. Look through their textbooks, homework and assigned readings. Schools do not blush at teaching children to be suspicious and critical of things that they learn at home; parents should not hesitate to teach their children to think critically about the “facts” that they are taught at school.
Organize community-based school fundraisers. Principals and superintendents don’t want to show soft drink advertising at school assemblies, but if that’s the only way to get a new playground, they will.
Corporations assert influence over school curricula by buying the textbooks; parents who are willing to pay for educational materials will find that they have more control over what is being taught.
Build your home as a laboratory of virtue. Provide an example of a strong marriage founded on genuine love and forgiveness. Let your children see you make sacrifices without whining or self-pity.
If you are excessively harsh or neglect your parental duties, make sure you apologize to your kids.
Teach your child the basics before you send them to school. The common factor among children in the “gifted” or “enhanced” streams at school is not that they are of superior genetic stock or that the stars were properly aligned at the moment of their births, but that they were taught to read when they were 4 years old.
Civic and filial obligations are almost invariably glossed over in schools, or taught only in a very superficial way.
Teach your kids how and why to vote, what their rights are, and how to sift truth from misinformation in the media.
Involve them in running your household, give them real responsibilities, and show them how to keep a balanced budget.
Pass on your skills. A child who learns how to build a deck, program a computer, do electrical wiring or cook gourmet food will not only be able to save money, they may eventually turn one of your hobbies into a rewarding career.
You can also consider asking your child’s teachers if you can come in and teach your specialized knowledge to the class; many teachers will welcome the opportunity, and children who don’t remember a thing they read in a social science textbook may well recall the old man who taught them military history using his scale model of the Battle of Waterloo.
Above all, never accept the doctrine that disinterested experts have a better idea of what is good for children than loving parents.
If your local school is secretive, uncooperative, or dismissive of your concerns, remove your child. If you can, send them to a good parochial school, or try home schooling.
Keep in mind that about 25% of home schooling families have both parents working, so it isn’t impossible. It takes courage and perseverance, but is intensely rewarding.
Melinda Selmys is a staff writer