Saturday, April 04, 2009

Rebuttal to Robert Jackson's argument for parental control of schools

I have to address one of Robert Jackson's main arguments for watering down mayoral control: that parents need to have a major role in how schools are run.  This is sort of like motherhood and apple pie -- who could possibly be against parental involvement? -- but let me take the other side of the argument.  First, let's clarify what we're talking about: everyone is in favor of parental involvement when it comes to getting their children to school on time, checking their homework, coming to parent-teacher conferences, working with the school to deal with discipline problems, etc.  The debate isn't over these things; rather, it's about MANAGEMENT issues: what reading curriculum should be used; is the principal doing a good job and, if not, what should be done; which teachers should be hired and fired; should a school be shut down; etc.?  When it comes to these key decisions, I think involving parents will result in WORSE, not better, outcomes.  I know for sure that I don't try to tell the head of my daughters' school how to run her business, nor does she tell me how to run mine.  Nobody thinks parents should have a say in how inner-city hospitals are run, so why on earth should they have a say in how inner-city schools are run?!
There are few things harder than running a school or school system, esp. an inner-city one, filled with the most difficult-to-educate students, the lowest-caliber teachers, the most militant unions and other entrenched interests, and the most corrupt (or bought-off) politicians.  The people who can make any difference at all in improving this system (which can best be described at a Mad Hatter's Tea Party) are a rare breed.  Why on earth would anyone think that a group of parents (often disorganized -- or worse yet, organized by the unions -- and often made up of the most militant, extremists with axes to grind) would help these great leaders do their jobs better???

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