Tuesday, November 15, 2011

We have a parenting problem, not a poverty problem

Speaking of Forstmann's comment on parental involvement, Fordham's Mike Petrilli speaks some uncomfortable truths:

it strikes me as highly unlikely that we're ever going to significantly narrow the achievement gap between rich and poor unless we narrow the "good parenting gap" between rich and poor families, too. (And yes, I know I'm going to catch a lot of grief for saying that.)

…So let's get specific: What can parents do to increase the chances of their children doing well in school? Let's just start with the zero-to-five years.

1.       Wait until you've graduated from high school and you're married to have children.

2.       Stay married.

3.       Don't drink or smoke when you're pregnant.

4.       Get regular prenatal check-ups.

5.       Nurse your baby instead of using a bottle.

6.       Talk and sing to your baby a lot.

7.       As you child grows, be firm but loving.

8.       Limit TV-watching, especially in the early years.

9.       Spark your child's curiosity by taking field trips to parks, museums, nature centers, etc.

10.   Read, baby, read.

For virtually all of these items, we've got evidence that affluent parents are much more likely to engage in these behaviors than poor parents. And what makes it easier for affluent parents to do these things mostly isn't about money (more on that below) but marriage: Getting hitched and staying that way. It's a heckuva lot harder (though not impossible, of course) to be a great parent when you're doing the job alone than when you've got a partner. And in case you haven't noticed, out-of-wedlock pregnancy rates and divorce rates have reached catastrophic levels for the poor and the working class—but not for the most affluent and well-educated among us.


We have a parenting problem, not a poverty problem
By Michael J. Petrilli


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