"Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body."
Primacy of Parents in
Citizens committed to ensure public education
is a reflection of the local community which creates, funds, and supports its existence. We see the best outcomes of public education coming from the partnership of parent, child, and teacher. The goal is bottom up, locally controlled education supporting the
G E T I N V O L V E D
Where is the syllabus?
The humble syllabus is the most powerful tool to empower parents and teachers to work together for the best educational outcome of the student. When was the last time you saw one?
Think about it. Your teacher has a plan on what to teach and how to teach it. If the teacher would share that information with the student and parents, students would have a clearer understanding of what material would be covered on specific days. Parents would be empowered to ask specific questions about the child's day at school instead of the, all-too-frequent, "what did you learn today?"
Imagine if you knew your child were reading To Kill a Mockingbird this semester and would be discussing it in class on Thursday. Anytime that week, you could seize the opportunity to ask what their impression was on the themes of racism, good and evil, heroism, etc. What a great opportunity to join your child in his/her education. Plus you would get a real sense of whether they had done their reading. Your child would know that you were on top of what was happening and would be more motivated to do the reading to begin with.
Some teachers actually do provide a syllabus. But there is no district policy on it. The board, in Wendy's four years on the board, has resisted a discussion on making a district policy instructing teachers to provide parents with a specific syllabus.
That is the most clear illustration of how we can improve our district by encouraging a better emphasis on parental primacy. Just because it is state law does not mean all is well and we have done all we can. Just because we involve parents in some ways, does not mean we are doing enough.
It's time we step up our game and recognize the unharnessed potential good parents can offer the educational outcome of their own children. Our district is good, but we can be great. Ask for a syllabus from your children's teachers. Attend a board meeting and ask the entire board to prioritize parents back in their rightful place. Support Wendy as she continues to advocate for parents and the best possible parent, teacher, student relationship.
What education issue is most important? What is the summum bonum? I believe the most important issue of education, is that it is the responsibility of the parent or guardian.
Certainly, education is a tripod with the parents, student, and teacher forming the sturdy base. Each has a critical role. All three must perform their own part if the best educational outcome is to be achieved.
Caring teachers are a blessing to every child and to society as a whole. Their talents and experience are a valuable asset our society has wisely put at parent's disposal. But the responsibility remains with the parents. We should not willingly or accidentally relinquish our responsibility.
The student bears an increasing amount of responsibility as he/she matures and becomes more capable. The ultimate goal is for a student to become a life long learner. Along the road to that goal, helpful teachers and supportive parents make education increasingly an opportunity and less a chore.
Utah state law codifies this concept (SB-122) saying, "A student's parent or guardian is the primary person responsible for the education of the student, and the state is in a secondary and supportive role to the parent or guardian." As a school board member, it is my responsibility to guard your role as a parent to guide and direct your children's education.
Why did the legislature feel the need to specify in law something so basic? Because we sometimes allow the system to make decisions where only the parents should be making decisions.
We the people created a system to educate our children. Some view it only as a bureaucracy, others view it as the epitome of what society can achieve through mutual commitment. Either way, the education system is simply the product of the people who created it. If we are willing to care and be involved, it can closely reflect our will. If we do not participate, the system continues to operate under its own direction. It cedes control to those with the most power in the absence of those who created the system to begin with. Education needs more bottom-up parental input and less top-down directives. Decision making power needs to be reclaimed by the rightful owners of the system...parents.
The education system starts at the local school district level, continues to the state level (State School Board, State Office of Education, Legislature, Governor), and then to the federal level (Department of Education). Along the way, other entities have become influential like the Chamber of Commerce, the National Governors' Association, even Bill Gates.
"School boards must stop being rubber stamps of higher levels of the education system and become enthusiastic defenders of local control of education. Parents, not bureaucrats, must be in charge of setting education priorities." Without local boards willing to represent and defend the will of parents and taxpayers, boards simply become a rubber stamp for the system above them on the state and national level.
Ever attend a local school board meeting? Don't feel bad, most parents haven't. Lack of participation on a local level is perceived by those involved in education as a lack of caring. People who work in education, all the way up the ladder, have committed their lives and livelihood to the system of education. If parents aren't going to participate, then members of the education system will perform their jobs and will make decisions on your behalf and in your absence. But they may not always be the same decisions you would have made.
It's been like that for generations.
But, just because it is that way, doesn't mean it should remain that way. It doesn't mean the system is rigged or there are bad people on either side of the equation. It simply means citizens need to start electing local school boards who understand, protect, and celebrate the primary role of parents in education and understand the consequences if they do not. Encouraging participation, transparency and accountability to the community served by a local school district is the way to ensure the best possible education outcome for the greatest number of students.
In the last four years, I have found many opportunities to do just that. The most public example is my opposition to Common Core. In a nutshell, my opposition stems from the fact that Common Core is another example of pushing the most important education decisions outside the reach of parents and taxpayers. If you have had the experience of trying to help your child with math homework in the last year, you understand it isn't just standards that have been put outside of our control. The way teachers have to teach to the test and are graded on the test is an example of why we cannot continue to allow education decisions to be made beyond the control of parents and professional teachers who can do so much more.
and the "will of the board". In each of these examples, the issue facing the school board pitted the interest of parental primacy against a top-down oriented education system. That happens sometimes and explains why school board races are (and should be) politically contested and decided. I put my perspective of "families first" out on my blog so you can know where I stand on each major issue.
If reelected, I will continue representing parents as the most important element in the tripod of parent, student, teacher. That will put me at odds, from time-to-time, with the education establishment. I believe there needs to be open and enthusiastic debate over education issues so the best decision can be arrived at and the public can have confidence that all perspectives were considered. The most important perspective of all, is that of the parents who created the system to begin with.