Friday, July 20, 2012

Are parents too involved?

I came across this article, “When Are Parents Too Involvedin Education.” The article raises good points and brings into focus some legitimate complaints educators may have about parents at times. But it fails to recognize the fuel for the fire, and that is the fact that educators are too involved in the home. It is natural for parents to feel invited to exceed the boundaries of legitimate oversight of the school (there are formal mechanisms through public school boards and informal mechanisms through open lines of communication), when we don’t recognize and respect the natural boundaries between home and school. Teachers must be are in charge of the class, and parents must be in charge of the home.

While complaining about parents trying to overly influence the schools, I think educators don’t give enough thought to the fact that current homework policies involve an extreme overreach of the school into the home. I know there is a debate going on about the amount and types of homework given, and it is a good debate, but I think the question of boundaries and lines of authority is a far more important issue than what educators decide, in their professional circles, constitutes good or bad homework.

Educators may complain that parents are asking for or demanding too many breaks for their kids, and discount them as being “helicopter” parents, but the current system gives teachers the authority to not just ask, but demand with the power to enforce what the child does in the home.

If teachers deferred to parents as the final decision-makers in the home, which includes the right to modify or waive homework assignments, parents will feel less pressure and will be less inclined to make demands on the teachers. And if they do, teachers will be on stronger grounds to say no.

There is research that shows that children with involved parents do better, but that research is entirely based on voluntary participation.  Coercive participation, i.e. creating home based requirements that  cause stressed out parents whose situations do not allow them to be that directly involved in the academic education process (keep in mind that parents are always “educators,” just not academic educators, from the moment that child is born), creates negative involvement to the detriment of the child.

Dr. Kenneth Goldberg is a clinical psychologist with 35 years of professional experience in dealing with many different psychological issues. He is the author of The Homework Trap: How to Save the Sanity of Parents, Students and Teachers and currently works in his own private practice.

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