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We Don’t Need Better Parents. We Need Better Systems.

National News

We Don’t Need Better Parents. We Need Better Systems.


Increased parental involvement is crucial for children’s learning. To improve it, work on the challenges parents face in raising their kids.

As part of the United States’ dire need for better education outcomes for our children, Thomas Friedman pointed out this weekend that research shows we may also need, as he puts it, better parents. A recent study shows, “Fifteen-year-old students whose parents often read books with them during their first year of primary school show markedly higher scores in PISA 2009 [a global exam] than students whose parents read with them infrequently or not at all… Parents’ engagement with their 15-year-olds is strongly associated with better performance in PISA.”

Dana Goldstein follows up on this, defending him from the “collective ‘duh,’ followed by ’so what?’” as she puts it. Because what can schools and governments really do to change parents’ behavior? But as she points out, there are school reformers who have decided that there actually are steps they can take to change parenting. They just have to put in the time and resources.

I completely agree that parenting is a crucial aspect — one of the most crucial, the research is now showing — of educating children. And parents can therefore use more support, outreach, and guidance. This is a worthy use of our resources. But what they really need is someone to address the systemic challenges they face in raising their children.


  1. LindaTift November 22, 2011

    What schools refuse to admit is that we have in this country many parents that are educated enough to help their children with their homework. Now point as many fingers as you want but until this country takes a generation to really educate our population then we will continue to have fingers pointing in both directions. It will take resources to do it. Before and after school tutoring, proper acedemic daycare and a committment by our nation to do it. We have always had a third of the students that get educated, a third of the students that either do well in math or english, and a third of the students that are lost thoughout their educational experience. Quit pointing fingers and make the decisions to do something about it.

  2. ABEE BABY November 22, 2011

    When we as a society have children raising children we need to educate the parents as well as the children to whatever extent we can. Whether it be voluntary or mandatory, either way we all pay the price of not helping to educate to the extent we would like.
    Truly Frank Adcock

  3. teachersome November 22, 2011

    One of the groups frequently alleged to be bad at parenting (if you listen to the anti-gay hate groups) are parents of the same gender. As it happens, while all parents can stand improvement, this is a myth.


  4. cemab4y November 23, 2011

    The worst thing a parent can do is to continually scream at their child “You’re stupid”, “You don’t want to go to college!”

    We need to take a page from the Japanese. Mothers there, know each of their kid’s teachers on a first-name basis.


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