Monday, April 18, 2005

The elephant in the living room

I have been told that in therapy circles they describe "the elephant in the living room" as the family denial of the individual with the alcohol problem. Just going through the motions every day and pretending that it doesn't exist. Meanwhile, the elephant is passed out in the corner.

You want to know what the "elephant in the living room" is in education? It's the denial of almost everyone, of the general effect on student achievement that comes from families who raise their children in the culture of poverty. It's not that we deny that it completely exists, it's just that we believe that it doesn't matter. We have an overwhelming optimistic belief that good schooling can prevail over bad parenting. That's because we have seen it happen, and therefore we believe that it can happen on a large scale. It's the large scale part that I am pessimistic about.

There are plenty of success stories of poor and disadvantaged children who made it, but there are millions who don't. Schools can and should continue to raise expectations and efforts to meet the needs of all kids. But let's face a cold hard truth.

It is much easier for good parenting to overcome bad schooling than it is for good schooling to overcome bad parenting!

There are no excuses for either bad parenting or bad schooling, but stuff happens. If educators try to explain this we are accused of being defensive at best and obstructionists at worst.

Bill Cosby recently tried to take on the "elephant." In some cases he was nearly trampled, but he has clearly struck up a chord among black America by no longer pretending it doesn't exist.

Take the time to read this article in City Journal. It might not please the person who thinks a government program will do the trick, but it discusses pretty thoroughly the differences between the parenting strategies used in homes of advantage and those used in homes of disadvantage.

And it points out that erasing the first four years of bad parenting through schooling is extremely difficult and not a very high percentage affair.


At Thursday, January 19, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Read "The Nurture Assumption", dude! Until you do, you're just spinning your wheels.


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