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From the Kitchen Table

What If . . .

by Peg Luksik

A renowned inventor was once asked how he could be so creative in his ideas? He replied that he would look at a problem and ask himself, "What if…?", filling in a different solution each time. The ideas didn't all work but he was always surprised by how many possibilities there were if one were to begin with complete openness.

In that spirit, let's approach education.

What if we began with the notion that the responsibility for raising children belonged to their parents? School personnel were supposed to deliver academic content and skills, not solve every behavioral and attitude problem of every child who walked through the classroom door.

And if the responsibility for raising children belongs to their parents, what if the schools expected parents to honor that responsibility in practical ways?
So, for example, when little Johnny refused to stop annoying the four children behind him and pay attention, what if the teacher marched him to the principal's office, called his parents and required one of them to personally come to the school and reprimand him in front of the teacher before he could return to the classroom?

And what if that happened every single time that little Johnny misbehaved?
Or, if teenage Susie had stopped turning in any homework, what if the guidance counselor called the parents and required them to come to the school to personally get the assignments from each teacher so there could be no miscommunication over what was expected of Susie?

And what if that happened every single day that Susie did not complete her assignments?

Such an approach would certainly change the current educational paradigm. That model has created a system in which parents who have a behavioral problem with a child, inform the school and expect the "professionals" to solve it. In fact, in many cases the school does not involve the parents at all. The result has been an increase in behavioral problems and a decrease in academic performance at an escalating cost.

That is not how education in America used to work. In the original model, if the teacher had a behavioral problem with a student, the parents were immediately informed and expected to solve it. Because everyone understood that parents, not schools, are the senior partners in the upbringing and education of children. When that understanding is intact, children learn.
Some years ago, a school tried this approach. A young teacher began by telling the parents of her students that she was not there to discipline, she was there to teach. So she would be calling them when little Johnny needed discipline.
Her administrator thought she was crazy, but agreed to give the program a try.

The parents who had to come to school after receiving a phone call in the middle of their day were angry at the school at first. But by the third time they had to interrupt their schedules, they were dealing with the improper behavior of their children. Within one marking period, that teacher had no significant behavior issues in her classroom — and the children's achievement began to rise. The rest of the school adopted her approach, with the same results.

And it didn't cost the educational system a single additional nickel.
So what if we let parents be parents and schools be schools? We get academic environments in which children can actually learn. This is a "what if" that needs to be implemented.

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