Blaming Parents

by Robert Pondiscio
July 30th, 2008

Parents’ failure to impose moral values in the home has left many children out of control, with teachers now expected to effectively raise young people themselves.  So says the head of Voice, Britain’s teachers’ union. Philip Parkin says the standard of parenting skills in the UK had suffered from a downward spiral in the last 15 years as generations of poor parents succeed each other.  In a speech to the union’s annual conference, Parkin said long working hours and the decline in old-fashioned family structures has contributed to the problem

“Schools are being required to take on more and more of the responsibilities that rightly belong to parents; and to provide more of the stability in children’s lives which should be provided by families. There is also the perception that, in general, the skills of parents are declining as one generation succeeds another.”

“In my last 10 or 15 years in school I saw a significant decline in parenting standards.” Parkin added. ”The shortening of many relationships, the creation of more step-families, the emphasis on parents going out to work and the consequent perception of the reduced worth of the full-time parent have all changed the way we behave and the character of childhood.”

I could be very wrong, but it’s hard to imagine such a naked critique of “parenting standards” issuing from a responsible U.S. union leader.  For all the sturm und drang in the U.S. about accountability and overcoming societal ills, it says something about the overarching consensus on what schools ought to be able to do that these comments sound so, well, foreign.

Cell Phones Linked to Behavior Problems in Children

by Robert Pondiscio
July 30th, 2008

Children whose mothers use cell phones frequently during pregnancy and who are themselves cell phone users are 80% more likely to have behavior problems.

“It’s a wonderful technology and people are certainly going to be using it more and more,” Dr. Leeka Kheifets of the UCLA School of Public Health, who helped conduct the study, tells Reuters.  “We need to be looking into what are the potential health effects and what are ways to reduce risks should there be any.”

Budget Woes: How Bad?

by Robert Pondiscio
July 30th, 2008

How big is the impact of rising fuel and energy costs on schools?  USA Today puts it in sharp relief:  one in seven school districts is considering cutting back to four-day weeks this fall. One in four is considering limits on athletics and other extracurricular activities.  One in three is eliminating teaching jobs.

“In the first detailed look at how fuel costs are affecting schools, a survey by the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) finds 99% of superintendents contacted say they’re feeling the pinch — and 77% say they’re not getting any help from their state,” reports USAT’s Greg Toppo.

Scary. 

Update:  See that little link up top for comments?  Click it to read John Thompson’s view of the tensions budget troubles create between policy types and those who go to work in schools every day.  “In the real world vs. the theory of policy reform, administrators in most of the country spend a lot more time dealing with sports than student achievement,” he writes. ”And no national mandate is going to change that in the short run. Paying for gas for field trips will not only divert money but attention.”  Good, clear-eyed stuff. 

Tracking the Bullies

by Robert Pondiscio
July 30th, 2008

Florida’s Broward County has become the first school district in the state to put an “anti-bullying policy” in place, per newly required state law.  The Miami Herald reports Broward schools are rolling out a new computerized system for reporting and tracking bullying.  “The Florida Department of Education will use Broward’s policy as a model for the state’s 66 other school districts,” the paper notes.  The Broward school district now defines bullying as “systematically and chronically inflicting physical hurt or psychological distress….The policy includes more than traditional schoolyard name-calling, teasing and shoving. Now, even behavior over the Internet — or social networking — can count if it affects students in school.

More Fuel for the Fire

by Robert Pondiscio
July 30th, 2008

Poor Mexican children who participate in a government program with extensive family services are further ahead in kindergarten than the average Canadian kid, according to new research.

Mexican authorities in 1990 implemented a system of programs called CENDI (the Spanish acronym for Centres for Early Childhood Development) in Monterrey, an industrial city roughly the size of Greater Toronto, that provides community supports to low-income households from the time of pregnancy through to preschool. The programs are similar to what Canadian early childhood researcher Dr. Fraser Mustard has long been advocating in Canada, the Toronto Star reports

“You can’t dump the whole responsibility (for childhood development) on families,” says Mustard, who advocates creating community “hubs” – ideally in local schools – where they can obtain nutrition and health advice from professionals, take part in parenting programs and involve their tots in programs. “Mustard says that way, parents get the support they need to do a better job, and problems can be caught and treated early on,” notes the paper.

The research will undoubtedly be used to bolster the argument of those who favor a broader social services role for schools.  It’s hard to imagine broad comments about dumping the whole responsibility for raising children on families, however, playing well in the U.S.