It’s the parents’ fault.”
Passing the Buck
I have often heard that it’s the parent’s fault when discussing the problems in our schools and in society. There’s nothing to be done, because it’s someone else’s fault.
Our schools have a lot of problems. One is that the kids don’t want to learn, but that’s hardly new. What is new are the discipline problems, and those have escalated into students with weapons. There is also the problem I mentioned earlier, the judgmental and even abusive popular culture of students toward one another, particularly those who aren’t physically or socially attractive, wealthy, or athletically talented.
The Parents’ Fault
Clearly, the parents aren’t doing their jobs. If they were, we would have better children in the schools, and we wouldn’t have these problems.
And we wouldn’t have greater problems problems later on. School success is personal success. There is a very strong correlation between problems in school, and problems later in life, including crime, unemployment, substance abuse, family instability, and other social ills.
It’s the parents’ fault. Clearly.
Except of course, the preceding logic makes it obvious that it is not the parents’ fault. It’s the grandparents’ fault. They raised the parents wrong. But if that’s true, then in reality it’s the great-grandparents’ fault.
And so ad infinitum.
This is an example of how our intensely partisan political and social battles cripple us. We have a problem, and we pursue no cogent solutions. The parents, indeed, are not doing their jobs, and what of it? Rather than blame someone else and walk away, how might we correct the problem? Parenting is a skill, like medicine or teaching or governance, and it takes training and practice.
It takes education.
And we have an educational system, which if carefully designed and thoughtfully implemented, could move us forward. There are people everywhere — not enough of them unfortunately — who say that some teacher or teachers changed their lives.
I have noted previously that when you’re a hammer, the whole world is a nail. After thinking about it I would like to modify that metaphor.
When you’re a hammer, the whole world is a game of intellectual Whack-A-Mole.
Only it’s Whack-A-Mole with two sides, us vs. them. As soon as anyone pops up to offer a discussion other than the slogan du jour, one side or the other — or both — slam her down.
The way we look at education is a perfect example of our lack of rational thought. What might be the solutions to our educational problems? The argument that “It’s the parents’ fault” strongly suggests that schools and government should not take over parenting, as that only leads to a ‘Nanny State.’ I have even heard some people say that if the child’s parents don’t care, the rest of us shouldn’t either.
Fine. But where does that take us? If we ignore the problem, if we don’t care about the child’s education, do we end up in a welfare state, where some of us work to support everyone else?
If not a welfare state, then what? When people begin to starve, yes, many of them will go to work. But many of them will turn to crime. Do we then end up in a police state, and a penal state? Law enforcement and prisons are expensive, often more expensive than education or welfare. We could, of course, return to extreme (and extremely cheap) punishments, but do we want to go back to hanging people for stealing a loaf of bread?
To my mind, because we won’t discuss those alternatives we end up with the default, which is a depressingly ironic solution: we become the inmates. Because we won’t discuss the problems and deal with them effectively, we peaceful, law-abiding citizens have gradually locked ourselves inside gates and walls and alarms and security services. More and more, we have become prisoners in our own homes.
We are so caught up in ideology and bumpersticker philosophy that we don’t have rational, thorough discussions. We don’t look at the data, the options others have tried, and even possibilities no one has ever considered.
Because part of the intense liberal and conservative partisanship that grips our country, and the whole world today, is that there is much finger-pointing and blame-storming, and almost no effective resolution. We have severe problems in education, which creates even larger problems in our world. But rather than sit down, side by side, left and right, to look at the problem, we just scream at each other. When we fail, we just double-down, and swing those hammers.
All options are available for discussion. Our problem is, there is no rational discussion at all.
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Picture, A Crushing Argument, courtesy of Old-Print.com.