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Schools shouldn't be trying to teach parents

Poll your friends. Ask them if their parents helped them with their homework. Chances are, most will tell you their parents rarely or never did. It used to be that teachers discouraged parental help with homework; they wanted parents to help their children only after, and if, a child was unable to complete an assignment alone, because students were expected to do their own work.

Today, however, the public-school establishment has a new gospel: Parents should help their children with their homework. More: Parents must help them.

The reason: The educrats have concluded that most parents are failing. Educrats know this is the case because American students are not performing academically as well as they should. Since the educrats couldn't possibly be to blame, they've fingered the folks.

And so, public schools have set about educating parents. Homework is the vehicle that can not only teach Johnny to read but also show Mommy and Daddy how to behave. Of course, parents should make sure their children complete assignments and assist with class work when asked, but schools are moving way beyond that.

Human Interaction, a required high-school class in Petaluma, Calif., assigns "teen/parent" homework that directs parents to discuss private issues with their children. A school official explained that it is "pretty generally believed" most parents don't communicate well with their kids.

Friends near Sacramento are surprised to learn they must sign a sheet each week attesting to the fact that they performed assigned activities _ such as playing "Simon Says" _ with their first-grader.

A reader sends in a note from her nephew's fourth-grade teacher. The note details students' regular Wednesday night homework assignment: cleaning their room _ kids must "organize" their closets, shelves and desks, pick up their clothes and dust _ and engaging in "talk time _ student and parent spend a few minutes together sharing the events of the day."

The math curriculum rated highest by a California instructional panel features a series of "Dear Family" letters that instructs the parents of third-graders thus:

"Involve your child in your own measurement activities _ hobbies like sewing or carpentry are natural for this."

"When your family really is sharing food, talk about 'fair shares' and help your child name fractions."

"Suppose you could make roll-out cookies with your child. This poses a problem of area: How can you place the cookie cutters so that you cover the most area . . .?"

"Finally, any time that you yourself need to estimate or deal with large numbers, please involve your child. Whether you're buying food, or deciding how many tiles to buy to patch the floor, your child probably has some good ideas about how to go about it."

Pardon me, but is this necessary? The answer is, no _ that is, if your goal is to teach kids math. If the schools' goal were to teach children math, it would be more efficient to teach children directly than to teach parents to teach children.

Many parents reading this column no doubt agree with school efforts _ especially the room-cleaning part. Some may fear their neighbors don't do the best job raising their kids. Others may feel that they don't spend enough time with their children and welcome the structure the new curricula offer.

Parents beware. Much of the schools' advice may be sound, but when the schools focus on teaching parents, it can intrude on their ability to teach academics. Academic performance is likely to flag as the schools prefer cookie-dough geometry to multiplication tables.

Which leads to this question: Considering the educrats' record, who are they to assume that most parents are failing?

Creators Syndicate, Inc.