I have some harsh things to say today, so if you aren’t in the mood, just come back tomorrow. You know me- I can’t stay cranky for very long. J
My niece sent me a link to a story out of the UK. It’s from the Daily Express and you can link to read all of it later. The gist of the story is that the government is going to monitor 20,000 “problem” families with 24-hour surveillance:
“They will be monitored to ensure that children attend school, go to bed on time and eat proper meals. Private security guards will also be sent round to carry out home checks, while parents will be given help to combat drug and alcohol addiction.”
If you continue reading and you link to a couple of other sites and pay attention to the comments you may come to the conclusion, as I did, that the report contains a few errors. Some of the families will be monitored at home, some in public housing- residential blocks called “sin bins”. Some will have cameras and others will simply get home visits. It’s a complicated plan with several components.
I only have a few of things to say about this. First, just because someone knows how to breed, does not make them a parent in any sense of the word. I understand why authorities at every level are desperate to crack down on drug and alcohol abuse and to improve the lives of our children. Children do NOT get to pick their parents, and even though they may love them, they also do not necessarily need to be raised by them. I am not one of those “biology at any cost” proponents. Some children are better off if separated from their biological parents. However, I’m not sure the government is going in the right direction with this solution. I can see at least a dozen problems with this plan, and I’m sure you have your own opinion. I’m going to leave this one alone.
However, what did catch my eye and is really my focus this morning is a minor statement in the article:
“Mr. Balls (Children’s Secretary) also said responsible parents who make sure their children behave in school will get new rights to complain about those who allow their children to disrupt lessons.”
According to two articles I read all parents in the UK will be required to sign Home School Agreements and promise to make their children behave in school. HSAs have routinely been used in the UK, but for the first time parents MUST sign them, and they will be LEGALLY binding. The HSA “will set out rules on behavior, attendance, school uniform and homework. Parents will have a duty to ensure children meet the tough code.” Parents breaking the contract “can be served with civil ‘parenting orders’ by magistrates' courts, forcing mothers and fathers to attend parenting courses or counseling sessions and ensuring children are at home at night or kept clear of bad influences. Orders are backed by fines of up to £1,000.” There is also a legal “tattling” clause for other parents- "If other parents feel that the HSA is not being enforced against other parents they will be able to tell the local education authority." Mr. Balls added: "Heads (teachers) will be able to say to the recalcitrant parents, if you do not sign this or make sure they do the homework, or support discipline, then we will take that as evidence in the magistrates' court."
Oh my! Where do I start? Are they CRAZY????
As a parent, let me just start with the obvious. Any parent who promises their child will behave in school is either delusional or lying. I’ve used parent contracts before. Most explain the rules and ask parent to verify that they have read the school handbook, the classroom rules, and the teacher’s homework policy so you don’t get “well, I didn’t know…” excuses when things go wrong. Most ask the parent to monitor things that are under their control- homework, bedtime, attendance. However, even that last one isn’t always possible. Parents don’t get to control how often their child is truly ill. Never, have I asked a parent to promise that their child would behave in my classroom! That is a promise I want from the child.
I’ve had some very unruly children in the past ten years. Some of them had parents who contributed to the problems. Some had parents who simply ignored the problems. Some had parents who worked with me each and every day and were as baffled by their child’s behavior as anyone else!! When will we understand that children are PEOPLE. They are individuals, not clones of their parents, not simply products of their upbringing. They are complicated bundles of genes, personality, environment, and attitude, among other things. Yes, I want parents to work with me. Yes, I want them to encourage their child to behave. Yes, I want them to do everything they can to create a good environment for their child. But do I hold them responsible for everything their child does?? Heavens, no.
And who PAYS for this?? No doubt there will be lots of paperwork. There will be administration. There will be legal fees. There will be time lost from work. Ultimately the cost will be taken out of money, time, and energy that should be directly spent on the students! That is what always happens with these government intervention programs. I’m not sure of the situation in the UK, but here money that is spent on implementing the new idea of someone who probably hasn’t been in a classroom since his own school days could go to the classrooms where teachers are buying their own paper and glue!!
Okay, let’s talk just a bit about the tattling clause. I understand how parents feel if little Johnnie goes home and reports that teacher spends most of her classroom time making Bully Bob behave. However, I don’t think I want my parents taking legal action against each other! I don’t want to go to court to testify. (Been there, done that by the way, when a very, very serious situation presented itself and I reported one of my parents to the Sheriff.) I don’t want one of my parents to decide that she is the neighborhood “bedtime monitor” or “homework monitor”, or whatever! If the government is really concerned about parents who are abusing drugs and alcohol then they should realize that parents could actually hurt or kill each other over this type of spying. And where do we draw the line? --“I saw Bob’s dad drinking a beer.” “Bob’s bedroom light was still on at 10pm.” “Bob’s mom curses.”
And last, but not least, I do NOT want to waste my time monitoring twenty sets of parents! I have my hands full teaching their children! I do not want to keep a checklist of who does what and then turn it in to the authorities! Yes, I speak to my parents if their child falls asleep in my class. Yes, I talk to them about anything that concerns them. But our relationship needs to be a partnership. I think a legally binding contract simply sets us up to be adversaries.
My soapbox isn’t tall enough to solve this problem. But I will certainly keep my eyes open for more developments in the UK.
I sure hope this idea doesn’t appeal to anyone on this side of the ocean!