The Commerce Journal

September 14, 2012

Fixing the Texas public education system

By Caleb Slinkard
The Commerce Journal

COMMERCE — It’s clear to anyone that picks up a newspaper/reads an internet blog that Texas public education is not working. Educators point at high stakes standardized testing mandated by the Federal government as a major problem. They say teachers have to spend too much time teaching students to pass these tests, which have tremendous impacts on how school districts and campuses are run and how much funding schools receive from the state.

There are several other problems highlighted in arguments over education- poor compensation for teachers, a generation of students who have little respect for authority and short attention spans, less than adequate funding, etc. All of theses issues may explain why Texas is lagging behind in so many education categories. Or, they may simply be excuses used by teachers and school administrators to explain poor performances on standardized tests. In reality, none of the above issues are really the cause of failing public education. They are merely symptoms of it.

The real problem with public education is parents. More specifically, a lack of concerned parental involvement in their children’s education. Of course, there are some all-star parents out there who are completely invested in their children’s education. But, in my experience, I find that many parents not only expect the public school system to not only educate their children, but raise them too.

What I mean by that is that parents see public school as a glorified daycare. They don’t know their children’s teachers, they don’t go to PTA and school board meetings, they don’t go over homework, they don’t continue their children’s education outside of the classroom. I’ve covered dozens of school board meetings, and the number of parents that attend them is pretty pathetic. Of course, this could be different in other Texas counties. I simply haven’t experienced those meetings, so I can’t speak to that.

Children can learn a lot from their parents. They learn most of their early vocabulary from their parents, which can have a huge impact on how successful they are in school. Parents can teach their children important skills and give them the one-on-one attention they need to understand concepts communicated to them in the classroom. Children whose parents are invested in their education will usually succeed. School districts can hire the best teachers and provide students with the best technology, but unless parents invest time and energy into their children’s education, Texas will continue to struggle in public education. The state is dead last, as of 2011, in high school graduation rates.

The most important thing that parents can teach their children is how to access, analyze and use information. Because of technological advances, students have ready access to information. Being able to access good information and critically analyze this information is more important today than ever before.

Parents also need to instill in their children the idea that education is valuable. Learning for the sake of learning is a good thing. My parents taught me the wonders of learning, and to this day I go out of the way to educate myself on a variety of topics. I owe this dedication to bettering myself to them. They made it evident throughout my life that they valued both education and my future. It’s easy to value your education when your parents do as well. It is time that we stop blaming poor student performance on the institution of public education and start looking at what we can do to improve our children’s chances at academic success.

In a more minor note, well-behaved students who respect authority turn classrooms into an environment more conducive to learning. Engaging our children on how to behave in public and how to respect authority figures would go a long way to improving classroom environments.

Of course, students will have a better opportunity to learn if schools receive the amount of resources they need. I’m not saying that funding, testing, and the quality of instruction is not important, because they all are. But focusing on those issues and ignoring parental involvement is, to me, a huge mistake that we and our children will be forced to pay for.