Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Obligations



Who is obligated to educate a child? Is anyone really obligated? The Oxford English Dictionary defines an obligation as being an 'action of constraining oneself by oath, promise, or contract to a particular course of action'. Teachers then would obviously be obligated to educate a child, as that is the purpose of their job--they signed a contract to educate children to a certain extent or academic level. They made a promise. 

But what about parents? Are parents obligated to teach their kids, or to ensure they're getting an education? There is no interview process or references needed to have children, and no parent has to sign a contract promising their involvement before they sign a kid up for school. But is there a commitment that parents make to their children's education? There definitely should be. 

Parents, for the most part, want their children to succeed, to thrive and to be happy. They often go to extreme lengths to ensure that their kids have great birthday parties, vacations, clothes, childhoods etc but what about great minds? Great grades? A great sense of accomplishment? A great sense of comfort in school? 

New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman urges Americans to stop pointing fingers at teachers and instead, look to the parents to improve our education system. 

"There's no question that a great teacher can make a huge difference in a student's achievement, and we need to recruit, train and reward more such teachers. But here's what some new studies are showing: We need better parents" Friedman writes. 

So what kind of effort turns parents into 'better parents' for their kids? Getting a masters in education? Being trained in tutoring? Studies show that parents hardly need to go to such extremes. Simple quality time with their kids reading together, asking about school, offering to help with homework can make an incredible difference in the academic success and happiness of a child. 

A 2009 Program for International Student Assessment, aka PISA, study showed that students who had parents that read with them even just twice a week while they were in primary school repeatedly showed higher testing scores than students who never received that interaction from parents. You can read more about this very interesting study in Friedman's NY Times link posted here (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/20/opinion/sunday/friedman-how-about-better-parents.html). 

So, teachers are obligated to educate kids, students are obligated to do their work and learn their material but can we argue that parents too are obligated to help their kids excel academically? That argument is very subjective, however I would personally argue that they are. Its a parents job to provide their kids with food, medical care, clothes, a home, love, attention, and time---why not read a book and help your kid be the best they can be? 

Knowing that children's learning at home will better their performance in the classroom, how can we create an incentive for parents to be involved in their children's schooling? 

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