Saturday, March 25, 2006

Teaching Students vs. Raising Children

Sounding much like a 60s band but definitely not, Joanne and the EdWonks have both discussed a Chicago schools plan that will send bags of non-perishable food home with students who may not have enough to eat over the weekend. While I can't imagine anyone's being against feeding hungry children, I'm certainly not convinced this is the most efficient way to do that or that it's even right-headed.

It's time we answer these questions: Where do the responsibilities of parents stop, and schools begin? How much overlap should there be?

Schools are not staffed with social workers. Schools are staffed with teachers, counselors, and other staff who are trained to do specific jobs related to running a school. If a child is being beaten, the school's responsibility stops at notifying the appropriate government agency that is staffed to handle that family problem. If a child doesn't have enough clothing or the appropriate/necessary kind of clothing--I know there are teachers out there who buy clothes for students, but that only fixes the immediate problem and doesn't do anything long term; it's like giving a man a fish instead of teaching him to fish, as that child will have a different teacher but the same problem next year. Etc. Etc. Etc.

There are more appropriate organizations, both governmental agencies and community assets, that can help students in need. As one commenter on EdWonk's post said, if we spend too much time raising the children we won't have much time to educate them. That summarizes all the thoughts swirling in my head earlier this week when I heard one of our counselors lament that we don't teach "character education" at our high school. Too many people want to do too much social work in our schools, and not enough teaching. Oh, I can hear the cries now: You can't teach the kids if they're hungry/violent/hurting/whatever, and that's correct. The school should not necessarily be the place that cures those societal ills; rather, it should be a place that recognizes and identifies students suffering from those ills and refers them to those best trained to provide the help.

We have good, caring people staffing so many of our schools, but that isn't enough. Let's send the kids where their issues can best be addressed, whether or not sending them elsewhere deprives us of the ego boost of feeeeeeeling like we're doing something good.

We should teach the children at school, not raise them.

Now, back to sending food home with the kids on Fridays. Don't we already have food stamps to address hunger? And what's going to happen to these children over the summer? My solution for when schools identify that kids might be going hungry over the weekend: reach out, several ways and several times, if necessary, to the adults in the community, and invite them to the school--where representatives from various community and government agencies can talk about food stamps, food lockers, job training, and whatever else is available. Because all of those things will still be available during the summer, when the kids will no longer be getting their sacks of food from the schools.


rightwingprof said...

"That summarizes all the thoughts swirling in my head earlier this week when I heard one of our counselors lament that we don't teach "character education" at our high school."

But we used to. That's what sports, PE, the Pledge and prayer was all about. However, the schools taught character without turning it into classes. What bothers me is what these ... uh ... "progressives" mean by "character education."

Darren said...

EXCELLENT point. Thank you for making it.