floridatodaylogoGuest column: Don't blame teachers

 Poor parenting main cause of students' academic problems

 Bob Barnes  FT 2014 Jan 2

Written by
Bob Barnes
Guest columnist

While I do not argue with the basic premise, poverty is not the main reason our kids are not educated properly. Moreover, it is not the condition of buildings, books, or system support. Poor parenting is the root of the problem.

I periodically read about cities with a poor neighborhood school in which the parents must be involved with their kids and the teachers, the child must demonstrate respect for the teacher and the child is held to high standards. Kids learn, thrive and succeed in these schools. The parents at these schools understand that parents are the key, not the “good” or “bad” teachers.

With few exceptions, good parents make good students and schools. Crummy parents make just the opposite.

It is a mistake to focus on the performance of teachers. The best teacher cannot take an unprepared and unwilling-to-learn child and make that child successful any more than I can teach a pig to polka. Preparation and willingness to learn is something that should be taught at home.

As a society, we should spend more time evaluating parents, not teachers. Kids come to school who not only cannot read but do not even have the basic understanding that reading is done from left to right on a page or comprehend that turning a page gets them to the next part of a book. And we want to judge a teacher on how well he or she succeeds with this child? Pigs will fly (or dance the polka) before that can happen.

After three years of dealing with hundreds of teachers, I realize that most are dedicated professionals simply overwhelmed by the system and the demands imposed on them by our society. We have a system in which some kids are ill prepared to learn or even how to behave in a civilized setting. Kids come to school with no respect for themselves, let alone the teacher.

Public schools are forced to accept all students who come their way and to do work that, under decent societal norms, would be done by the parents. As the decency in our society degrades, so does the level of competence in our schoolchildren.

Unfortunately, the parents, with their miscreant behavior or poor parenting skills, have little ability (or even desire) to make sure that little Johnny understands right from wrong or how to show respect to his teacher. It is not their job to demonstrate or encourage a willingness to learn on their child’s part, “It's the school’s job.” Hogwash!

Teachers are in an impossible situation. Shame has disappeared from people who feel they are entitled to a free ride in life, including when it comes to the responsibility of rearing their own child.

Let’s heap some shame on and evaluate crummy parents, not teachers.

Barnes is executive director of The Children’s Hunger Project. He lives in West Melbourne.


Marshall Frank • Works at Author

Bob Barnes is right on the mark in his guest column. Recent generations of poorly parented kids have now grown to become parents themselves, with only their inept parents for role models. Fatherless teen moms, open drug use in the home, disregard for moral standards, etc., has become the norm, and then we blame teachers and schools for poor performance in schools. Society in the 21st century has transformed from a system of order and basic standards of behavior, to "if it feels good, do it." We should focus on providing quality training and education to youth parents and parents-to-be. More attention to issues that Mr. Barnes brings to light is needed.

December 19, 2013 at 3:41am

Karen Berman • Top Commenter • Brevard CC

Have you seen how much money is spent of VPK? Did you know they now enroll as early a 4? So who is really minding the kids?

December 19, 2013 at 1:47pm

John Parmenter • Top Commenter • Miami, Florida

The problem starts with the government which for generations has pushed a no responsibility existence on so many. They have wanted a 80% nation of semi-slaves, uneducated and owing no allegiance to family or religion and instead to a faceless government which supplies a basic symbiotic living for votes.

December 20, 2013 at 2:31p

Richard Charbonneau • Liberty University

Excellent points:

With few exceptions, good parents make good students and schools. Crummy parents make just the opposite.

It is a mistake to focus on the performance of teachers.

My comment is what parents? Most are absentee parents with 50% from a divorced home or a home where material goods are so important both parents are working and the kid is left to be raised by a teacher that only sees the kid an hour a day. If the kid fails all of a sudden it's the teachers fault? NOTICE to parents: Teachers can only "tune up" the kids you sent them they can't rebuild them! The building is YOUR job yes a JOB that can't be abdicated.

December 19, 2013 at 4:34am

Jerry Gifford • Top Commenter • School of Hard Knocks, University of Life

I look at it the same way as with the argument, is it nature or nurture. Its both. Poor parenting is at an epidemic level. And it is not only parents struggling to make ends meet, upper middle income parents are almost as bad {rich parents probably worse}. But when you add poverty to the equation then there is no denying it affects a child's ability to learn. Self esteem is a real problem {been there, felt that}. Coming to school hungry doesn't help. Nurturing is definitely lacking with parents today but the nature in which a child must struggle in school is also a real factor.

My mother worked in a minimum wage job and raised 4 children and although we all became tax paying, law abiding citizens we all would have done better in life if childhood had been more prosperous. Not an excuse, a fact.

If you haven't walked in the shoes of the other person you don't really know what's there.

As for teachers, they are the heroes. How many can truthfully say there wasn't a teacher who made a difference? There bad apples in every barrel but teachers have responsibilities beyond the call. Yet those on the right won't to demean them at every turn. Shame on anyone who says it is the teacher's fault.

December 19, 2013 at 4:13pm

Scott Pope • Top Commenter • Adel, Iowa

Great column... Which will likely ignite a firestorm...It deludes the liberal argument that if we just keep throwing more money at education the outcomes will improve.

December 19, 2013 at 5:11am

Fred D Bartleson Jr • Top Commenter • Works at What's work

Don't completely agree Scott. We warehouse our kids in school, but sometimes have advanced placement for the more gifted. We probably ought to have some very small classes for the less fortunate, spending more time on ethics, basic skills, hygiene, and guidance for careers, crime and punishment, instead of fractions and Chaucer. But since it would cost more, I'm afraid I would be branded a liberal, so never mind.

December 19, 2013 at 10:09am

Richard Charbonneau • Liberty University

Fred D Bartleson Jr Actually that sounds more conservative if you ask me? Be careful we'll start calling you a tea party member. LOL

December 19, 2013 at 1:06pm

Richard Charbonneau • Liberty University

Scott. 100% correct.

December 19, 2013 at 1:07pm

Liz Kelly Mikitarian • Top Commenter • Marshall University

He "GETS" it !!!!! I do not " blame "parents I believe we should offer programming and support to help them become better.

December 19, 2013 at 8:11am

Denise Berry Coyle • Top Commenter • RA Long High School

I agree, we not to stop BLAMING and come up with solutions! Solutions that will help us get towards our future goals.

December 19, 2013 at 9:06am

Scott Pope • Top Commenter • Adel, Iowa

That needs to happen before they have kids.

Gary Shiffrin • Rollins College

For all the years I was an educator, I always maintained that in order for a student to have a fighting chance there needed to be a partnership between the home and the school. Parents must take ownership for the fact that they have the responsibility to raise their children so the children have the foundation to be successful at school. The it is the responsibility of the school to provide the quality education so the students can be successful and move on to the next level. Throw in character education and knowing the difference between right and wrong.

December 19, 2013 at 11:41am

Karen Berman • Top Commenter • Brevard CC

Are you sure the problem is with the parents? Kids are thrown in daycare these days from just about day 1.if they happen to escape the cattle call of daycare then not far behind that they are thrown into VPK programs, many at tax payer expense. So, all things considered, kids spend more time in "learning" environments than in home. I think that might actually be the problem.

December 19, 2013 at 1:46pm

Tami C. Elton • Top Commenter • University of Central Florida College of Arts and Humanities

Thank you, Mr. Barnes. I needed to "hear" that.

December 19, 2013 at 6:26pm

Frank Dinda • Top Commenter • University of Central Florida

Thank you!

December 19, 2013 at 12:30pm

Susan Pleasanton

Mr. Barnes is absolutely correct. He left out details such as students who are unable to wake up their parents from the drugs induced coma from the night before, like one of my little first graders. Then there are others who are homeless, sleep in cars, malnourished, etc. Another student of mine told me when I asked why wasn't he reading for 15 minutes each night, with books he borrowed? He replied his Mom said "she had better things to do than waste her time reading with him". Really?

But blame teachers and have us try " more effective strategies ". We are required to Implement RTi strategies, with Tier 2 or 3 interventions with documentation to improve student performance. What are parents doing for their part to help with their son or daughter's success in school? The parent population and attitude has changed and not for the better.

December 20, 2013 at 2:19pm

Francis Clifford • Top Commenter • Marian Catholic High School (Pennsylvania)

Bob: I can, and am pleased to, associate myself with every single word you wrote as a parent who sent four kids successfully through the public school system in suburban Philadelphia between 1978 and 1997. Yeah, I'm white and lived in a great white neighborhood, but I too have read and seen inner city stories of kids who achieve personally and academically when parents agree to get on board and PARENT. Indeed, it only takes a few of those parents to start the ball rolling and others jump on the bandwagon in those schools. They don't feel victimized by poverty even though they live among it. Frank Clifford Suntree

December 19, 2013 at 5:56pm

Karen Berman • Top Commenter • Brevard CC

This is almost like saying don't blame teachers when kids do poorly due to home life, but then the opposite would also be true, no credit to teachers when home life is good? I'm not sure I get it.

December 19, 2013 at 1:57pm

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