"The Best Teacher is the Parent" is Just a Political Platitude

My friend, Bill Heuer, one of the founders of the Massachusetts Home Learners Association, writes:

In New York last week and saw this campaign ad for Cuomo. And almost fell off my chair. Here is a Democrat, in a very blue state, and the last line of the ad is:

"And I still believe the best education equipment is the kitchen table, and the best teacher is the parent."

Why aren't homeschoolers jumping all over this? . . . The point I'm trying to make is that I'm seeing more and more of the “can’t see the forest for the trees” stuff. These are the words being used, and these guys can't actually hear what they are saying. The next question to them should be, "Then why aren't you supporting homeschooling which does everything you are looking for?"

Or, at least recognize that all of these "new" reform concepts (e.g., full parental involvement, individualized learning plans, learning styles, apprenticeships, multi-age groupings, flexible schedules, experiential learning, integrated curriculum, etc., etc.) were ALL embraced, practiced, and proven by homeschoolers decades ago. And that there is much that can be learned from the homeschooling community.

I wondered about that too, so I looked at the article and the TV ad in question. What I see is a politician positioning his campaign to appeal to an electorate fed up with government mandates to fix schools that only result in more bureaucracy and control over local classrooms. But Cuomo’s point—that homes and parents are the most important elements of the best education—is important. It has been noted in studies since compulsory schooling was imposed upon children in the United States in 1850 and it has reached a real tipping point in America today. Socio-economic status is the most important element for a student’s success in conventional school and America is being cleaved along socio-economic lines, with our school system acting as the sorting machine for putting and keeping people in their social class (or should that be caste?).

What Cuomo really espouses in this ad (and the imagery and script emphasize this) is that parents should support school by helping children with their homework and give their children the best education by investing in “the new technology classrooms of tomorrow.” Once again, the opportunity to engage parents who want to be more involved in their children’s learning besides just helping with homework or doing school fundraising gets muddled, and the chance to empower teachers to seek new ways and means to engage students and work with parents gets lost in the rush to refurbish existing classroom structures.

Many have noted how schooling is not the same as education, and how education is no longer the same as learning (education is measured by educators and economists by how many diplomas are given out, which does not necessarily mean one has learned anything, as many college graduates and disgruntled employers readily attest). Governor Cuomo just wants the school-diploma machine to keep pumping out graduates and for parents to support that effort; however, to really make bold changes in education requires parents and teachers who will “be there” for children in far more ways than just helping with homework and supporting new technology for school.

Here is a transcript of Cuomo's ad:

“Education is the gift we give our children, and they deserve the very best. Over the years, I’ve helped my kids by just being there. That’s why I want real teacher and school evaluations; to stop over-testing our children; not to use Common Core scores for at least five years, and then only if our children are ready. I want to invest $2 billion dollars to build the new technology classrooms of tomorrow. And I still believe the best education equipment is the kitchen table, and the best teacher is the parent."

Patrick FarengaComment