Monday, December 10, 2007

Why Parents Have No Power Over the Public Schools

“What seems undeniable is that there is a substantial contrast between the vision of what public education is supposed to be and the reality of schooling itself.”
-- Bruce Goldberg, Why Schools Fail

Some parents assume that the school system is educating children in the basic skills of reading, writing and calculating, but today’s schools are failing to provide that basic instruction. Not only are the skills neglected, but they are obscured by poor teaching methods and inadequately trained teachers. In fact, many call the schools an educational disservice.

Because of the schools’ poor quality, private businesses now remediate children whose schools have failed them. Even more telling, some of those businesses are designed to deal with the psychological problems that children acquire as a result of attending those public schools.

Many people wonder why their children spend so much time where they learn so little of what they need and want to know. Even worse, they wonder why the children are having so many psychological problems. While the schools blame the children, the parents, TV, and society, they never blame themselves. Yet, we now realize that the educational malpractice and the children’s problems come from the same place: the schools.

While parents have the ultimate responsibility for their children’s learning, when they send them to the government schools, a strange phenomenon occurs. The schools do not allow the parents to assume their responsibilities for determining what that learning will include. Administrators repeat their mantra, “Trust us, we’re professionals.” However, today, the public is learning that those employees are not always what they claim to be and the schools are not doing what parents want them to do, but in many cases, exactly the opposite.

What we discover is that the schools are no longer controlled by the communities they claim to serve. Even though the school establishment tells the public that local control exists, the fact is that local school boards are directed by the state, under the control of bureaucrats and politicians. Not only is there no local control, but with new federal laws such as NCLB, even state control is losing ground to the feds.

The results are parent frustration, school board impotence, children being denied their proper skills, political indoctrination, and many more ills. Today, school employees create pretenses and excuses for what some call a culture of corruption and deception . It has become the job of superintendents to hide the many ulterior motives and agendas the government has for its schools, while pretending that its purpose is what parents want – even though it is not. The contrast between what parents want and what schools offer is clear and the gap is large, and every day parents are losing their power to change it.

The superintendent’s job has become spokesperson for the government, often in opposition to the community. Today’s superintendent stands between the parents and the education establishment while also being puppet master of the school board. He/she is ready with a mountain of statistics and a blizzard of spin and nonsense to defend what amounts to fraud, mismanagement and corruption. The message to the parents is that they and their children are helpless pawns in the government game called public school.

We cannot control what we do not own.

Ned Vare is a Yale graduate, an architectural designer, former school teacher, businessman and author. He was the Libertarian Party's candidate for Governor of CT in '98. More articles appear at

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