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Monday, May 9, 2011

We can't just blame parents for kids problems in schools

A lot of the letters to the editor and commentary recently have had a similar attitude and that’s parents must step up if Jacksonville’s school system is ever going to be successful and I couldn’t agree more but at the same time I think that way of thinking is incredibly short sited too.

Our schools and our city cannot afford to sit back and say if only little Johnnie’s dad would have given him a pop when he misbehaved or little Suzie’s mom would have read to her they have might have made it. The schools could be doing so many things that would make our children despite of their neighborhoods and families more successful but instead they exacerbate the problems that many of these children an our city already have.

Despite the claim from 1700 Prudential Drive that discipline has gotten better, what has actually gotten better is our teacher’s ability to ignore bad behavior and endure toxic learning environments. I am not talking about fighting, or guns or dugs I am talking about the blatant disrespect that so many students show to their teachers and their lack of fear of any consequences for bad behavior. When we accept this maladaptive conduct we reinforce it and if kids aren’t getting discipline at home or at school then where will they get it?

Then we pass kids along without the skills they need to be successful. If you want evidence look at the statistics of kids who have to take remedial classes in college, can’t pass the military entrance exam or don’t read or do math at grade level. Kids don’t show up and forget what they learned on the contrary they never learned it. Then the counties grade recovery program is ridiculous. It used to be for kids who got sick and who tried but just doesn’t get it but that has morphed into whomever for whatever reason. Where is a kid supposed to get a since of a work ethic if they don’t need one at home or in school?

School is also such drudgery for so many kids. Imagine having a terrible home life and then being forced to go to school where you hated it, you had nothing to look forward too. Not only have almost cut elective and trade and skills programs out of existence but we also have a one size fits all curriculum that serves fewer and fewer kids. Not every student is going to go to college but that doesn’t mean they can’t be productive and successful citizens and we should serve their needs too. The problem is we don’t serve their needs instead we force them into a cookie cutter curriculum and then wonder why so many do so poorly.

We definitely need more parental involvement but at the same Duval County needs to step and say if a kid isn’t ready we aren’t going to pass them and hope they somehow catch up. We have to say, act up, well for six hours a day you are going to see how the real world works and get a swift and strict consequence for your behavior. The school system needs to act like a school system not the parents that the community points its fingers at.

Duval County admittedly limited by its resources (we can’t afford busses, summer school, a log jam of kids held back, social workers and psychologists, electives and skills and trade programs) needs to become the adult in the equation. It needs to give our kids options but also tell them no, allow them to fail and punish them when called for. Schools can’t fix families and neighborhoods but they likewise shouldn’t make them worse which is what we are doing now.

Just pointing our fingers at absentee parents isn’t going to solve the problem our schools and city are facing.


  1. (I hope that the chain of comments here is not considered rude. I could have gone on longer, but I had to stop at some point.)
    A well-informed post. While being new to this blog, I can certainly attest to the truth of the words. Education has become a large and deeply guilty secret in our country. The issues at hand loom like a titan and it is, indeed, set to crush the future for a great number of citizens in our country, a country already mired in debt and a citizenry increasingly incapable of seeing to its own needs as a result of unemployment, underemployment, and a pitifully inadequate minimum wage. Those, however, while tied to education in some manner, are digressions.

    The host of issues facing us is daunting...we now look at a system that, despite the amount of money that is thrown at it every year, hosts frightening gaps in financial health. Most of them are incapable of offering what would have been considered basic service even ten years ago. Many face difficulty even covering the cost of copies or technological maintenance (not to mention the ability to keep it up to date). Discipline is, in troubled schools, a miserable sham. Yes, the county (and not just Duval, I'm sure), may claim better discipline, but it is quite likely that what this means is, in fact, that teachers are frequently enduring more disrespect and general nastiness in the classroom environment. Administrators are overwhelmed by the volume of serious problems they must deal with, never mind the presence of respect in the classroom. That has become a small concern in the face of larger issues. Administrators are frequently tied down to their caves as issues come in and roll out...the same kids over and over and over. Can they deal with it? Can they save your kids from the thugs and dangers and the damage to their education? Not at all. They can defray the damage to some degree, but in some areas, regrettably, it's just not happening. People know it, but none really talk about it...not publicly. Social promotion is rampant. Students are passed from one grade to another, frequently made to repeat prerequisite classes even as they take the classes to follow at the same time. Of course, if we held students accountable for their learning, responsibility, and actions, many schools in the inner city would be absolutely flushed. We have institutionalized social promotion as much as we have de-institutionalized the concept of things like deadlines (indefinite extensions on assignments are not uncommon, regardless of whether they are warranted) or serious accountability for their actions.

  2. An era of over-politicization of education is over us and only the people can end it. Our time as the hegemonic power in the world is likely coming to an end. It is time to stop drinking the Kool-Aid we are being fed and raise our voices as one. Every politician in Tallahassee...from here clear out to Olympia and up to Augusta...should go to sleep with echoes of the anger of their electorate in their heads. They should slumber uneasily, the awareness of the fact that as they ravage education, they bleed the republic...every student, parents, and teacher. They bleed our very future.

    Our schools -are- under attack. The very fabric of our culture, which once prized education as one of its greater assets, is being savaged by politicians who have no vested interest in speaking the truth about its problems or really fixing the issues that vex the troubled. Ladies and gentlemen, I know that vouchers, charters, and private schools sound fine now. That's because the problems from the public schools have yet to explode onto their scene. When they do, we will find that one was not superior to the other, unless the charters totally change the way that the game is played. If they do, then maybe they are, in fact, the wave of the future, but it's likely that a great many may lose the privilege they once had when it came to attending a school. Maybe they have that coming, but that's no original idea. To some degree, maybe that's what public institutions need to start exercising a bit more...hard-handedness and honesty.

    There's a great conversation right now at on Ron Littlepage's article at . Highly recommended. There's so much to talk about here. The public should be threatening to tear down the very walls of the state capital. Instead, many are turning their attention away. Can we stop this?