In a chapel service sometime in the 1970's a long forgotten speaker gave an otherwise un-notable sermon. At one point, though, he seemed to stop, point directly at me and speak words which changed my worldview: "Children are the living, breathing Reproduction of their parent's attitudes."
A recent CNN report asks: "If an elementary school teacher graded you on your involvement in your child's education, what kind of a grade would you get?"
According to news reports available from CNN and other sources, Florida State Rep. Kelli Stargel is introducing a bill by which public school teachers will be required to grade the parents of students in kindergarten through the third grade.
The parents' grades of "satisfactory," "unsatisfactory" or "needs improvement" would be added to their children's report card. The grading system is based on three criteria that Stargel wrote in the legislation:
#1 - child should be at school on time, prepared to learn after a good night's sleep, and have eaten a meal
#2 - child should have the homework done and prepared for examinations
#3 - there should be regular communication between the parent and teacher
This proposal has already stirred up some controversy, which might just be a good thing.
On the one hand, I can see how much parents affect the child's attitude toward school.
Back in my ill-wasted youth I tried for a while to be a young, inexperienced preacher in a small church. Among my "duties" was to get the younger folk involved in church. In the process of so doing we had a children's show. One young girl whose parents did not attend had been persuaded to join her friends had begun to attend and took part in the event. Being the one on stage watching parents, as soon as the girl's part was over I saw her mother bitterly mouthing the words, "come on, let's get out of here!" Not surprisingly the girl never returned and I learned that nothing the church (or school) did would ever completely overcome the influence and emphasis of the home.
On the other hand, as our children have gone through the system and now have children of their own in school I've wondered if educators have taken over so much of education as to make parents feel redundant? The CNN report includes:
"Steve Perry, a CNN education contributor and founder of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Connecticut, says he couldn't disagree more. Perry insists that a good education is based on what a child learns in the classroom and not what a parent might know that could help their child."
So, how would I have rated as an involved parent?
My approach, which sometimes got me (and them) in trouble, was this:
The good of the many is why teachers and principals get the big bucks, so I figured it my responsibility to our children to "have their back." My approach was that my child was the most important student in school, and I would willingly sacrifice the need of your child for what is best for mine. And, I pitied any parent who did not approach their children's education with the same attitude.
In the end the only true judgment is what kind of adults the adults reproduced. By such criteria this daddy & mommy think we did all right.
David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.