Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Cultivating a Culture of Failure?

Last week Indiana governor Mitch Daniels signed a bill that would require teachers to be paid by merit rather than seniority.  To union members, this was a slap in the face.  To those of us who work at jobs where our raises are based upon evaluation of performance, it probably made a bit more sense.  I loved reading the comments on the Northwest Indiana Times Facebook page.  The reactions were mixed and quite insightful.

One of the comments stood out to me.  A woman defending the teachers said that you can't always blame the teachers for poor performance of their students.  Her assertion was that there is too little parental involvement, and if the kids don't get the help they need at home, then they are more likely to fail despite the talents of the teacher.  I want you to know that I am in whole-hearted agreement with her.  But I do see an irony in the situation that maybe she doesn't see.

When I first decided to home educate my kids, I was met with many questions and criticisms.  One of the frequent criticisms was that I was not "qualified" to teach my kids at home.  Despite the fact that over 20 years of high scores on standardized test in the home school community, we are still met with this argument.  I believe that it is a prevailing attitude that parents are to feed and clothe their kids, and it is up to the schools to do the rest.  I can even see this line of thinking spilling over into the church community.

Last year I read the book Already Gone: Why Your Child Will Quit Church and what You can do to Stop it.  It was an eye-opener to think that 85% of churched children will leave their faith behind at some point in their lives.  The book made a lot of good points, but In my opinion, it missed to mark with the solutions that it offered.  Churches these days look much like schools.  Sunday school classes are age-segregated.  The emphasis is on programs for the kids.  We have really fallen short of encouraging parents to take on their God-given call to teach God's Word to their own children.  Some have even gone so far as to tell parents that they are not qualified to teach the Bible to their own children.  We are even rearranging the rules of our Bible clubs to accommodate the children who lack parental involvement at home.  We see it as necessary to the spiritual development of the child, and just assume that no amount of encouragement will inspire the busy parents to get involved.   So we continue to tweak Sunday School and Bible club curriculum and avoid the real problem for fear of insulting parents who are too busy to help.

It is really hard to place the blame squarely on these parents.  This is just the way we think these days.  Government and schools have pressed hard to make parents understand that their children's education is not their responsibility, but rather the government's responsibility.  It isn't so hard to imagine this line of thought trickling over into Church culture.  Young couples are focused on careers and being able to afford the things they want.  Most moms can't wait until their kids are old enough for school so they can have their lives back.  It's just the way we are.  I remember thinking this way at one point too.

I don't have all of the answers for the school systems.  I have perceived it as a broken system for quite some time, hence the decision to home educate.  For parents, however, I can confidently say that we can turn the tide of mediocrity.  All it will take is a dedication to being the number one educator and influence in your child's life.  For some, it might mean cutting back on work to spend more time with the family.  Or maybe just getting up an hour earlier to read the Bible together before school.  Whatever it may be, the core of it is taking the responsibility for raising your kids upon yourself and not allowing the church and the schools to claim the primary responsibility. 

If the schools really want kids to succeed, they need to send a message to the parents that they ARE qualified.  I believe that it is the same with churches.  The key is educating parents about their Godly call to be the primary educator, then equip them to succeed in doing so.  A little bit of encouragement can go a long way.

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