Good advice, certainly, but . . .
A whole new meaning to ‘let the punishment fit the crime’?!
Lately, I’ve been rethinking about the topic of parents and schools. This is partly due to some continued and un-finished thoughts from our previous discussion on ‘where does classroom end?’ But partly this is also due to recent requests to pull a book from classroom discussions at Springfield Public Schools (SPS).
As we ponder how schools, parents, and society work together to broadly educate our future citizens, let’s narrow the focus a little and examine the parent/school partnership again.
Parents and schools are, of course, inescapably linked. For the most part, they have the same common long-range goals. As partners, they can become a powerful team. And yet, almost of necessity, there are certain amounts of creative tension that’s inherent in the partnership. Both groups have common goals, but they each have their own vantage points and their own sticky issues. This creative tension can be beneficial at times, but it can also lead to occasional head-butting on some issues. And the content of books used in classes can be one of those issues. How both parties react to those times/issues can be crucial in maintaining good relations.
For perspective, let’s look at the general question first: How do parents and schools contribute to a powerful and synergistic partnership without trespassing in the primary realms of influence of the other?
Now there’s a question without an easy answer! Obviously, any answer would mean defining what, if any, areas are the exclusive purviews of parents on the one hand, and schools on the other. Putting toothpaste back into a tube would probably be easier than getting agreement there – there’d likely be many opinions. So where does book banning – or questioning class content – fit in this parent/school picture?
I am a parent. I think I can understand – to a point – not wishing to have one’s child(ren) involved in reading or discussing certain topics that might be sensitive to me. To a point. Yet, I can certainly understand, appreciate, and applaud a teacher/department/school wanting to use a new and timely book (or even an old controversial classic!) for educational and growth purposes and/or for social awareness. That helps with making better and more understanding future citizens.
And I can see where some parents and a school might work together to see if a win/win exists in such cases of cross-purposes, much as the News-Leader’s excellent editorial of Feb 4 suggests, and as SPS appears to be trying to do now.
I guess what I’m not sure I understand in general is why a parent, or group of parents, would want to unilaterally speak for other parents and the schools by seeking to ban a book for everyone – not just their own child(ren). (Note: I don’t have enough information to claim that’s necessarily what’s happening in this current case.)
Along those lines then, I wonder if we sometimes ask the wrong questions when it comes to banning books in schools or in class discussions. I’m not sure the relevant question is ‘should this book be banned?’ Perhaps the question should be “Can a school speak to a parent’s objections about a book, yet still allow the book to be a part of the educational process for other students?”
It is these latter types of questions that must be tackled and answered maturely for the parent/school partnership to continue to run smoothly with mutual trust and efficiency. The questions – and the partnership – are crucial. Over the long run, neither schools nor parents can do their jobs as well without the support of the other.