OPINION | EDITORIAL: And in response

Call this a letter from the editors

In this week of giving thanks, we have to mention how thankful we are to readers. For we can't do this without you. But besides your support through subscriptions, you also keep us on our toes. And as an example:

Wowza! We got an arrow of a letter shot by a crossbow of an email the other day. Not-So-Gentle Writer had a bone to pick with us, editorially. Or maybe a whole skeleton:

"I commend you for your support for improved public education. However, a continuing trend is once again evident in your editorial today. Not a SINGLE mention of parental involvement, parental encouragement, parental support. In all your editorials concerning education you glaringly omit this most important factor, that of parental participation. Just once I would like to see you mention parents. Just once."


Our friend and frequent letter writer (we didn't ask if we could use his name, so we won't) has a point. And we may need to 'splain ourselves.

Of all the factors that go into education, "parental involvement" has to be the most important. A family can live below the poverty line in the most challenging of neighborhoods, but much of that can be overcome by parental involvement. A family might not have access to the Internet, or even a good library, but a lot of that can be mitigated by parental involvement. A child can have a so-so teacher at school, and still get ahead with enough parental involvement. If that parental involvement means reading at night, helping with homework, general encouragement, telling stories about historic events, keeping the kids off the streets, and the like.

Parental involvement can also mean finding better schools when the local traditional public school is failing. Parental involvement can mean voting for school board candidates that take seriously the idea of education reform. Parental involvement can mean visiting schools--whether volunteering or just explaining to the principal what the family's expectations are. And holding said principal to those expectations.

If one could wave a magic wand, and change one thing about public education in the United States, increasing parental involvement would be the obvious step.

But there is no magic wand. The rest of us can't wish better parental involvement into existence. The question is:

What's the next step?

If parental involvement can only be, or not be, depending on the parent and the situation, what can the rest of us do with, or without, it? How can our tax dollars be best spent to improve the education of these young people, and thus everybody's future? Let's assume that while parental involvement can certainly be encouraged, and certain programs will help improve it, not every kid will benefit that way.

What's the next step?

And this doesn't mean a lack of parental involvement in education means those parents don't care. Some of them are working two, maybe three, jobs to make ends meet. Some might not have the ability to help with high school math. (We don't.) Some might have schedules that don't lend to helping at night.

What's the next step?

Those running public education know that they will have to continue looking for those next steps. Some of us believe that school choice is a natural move in the direction of education reform. And also merit pay, bonuses, standardized tests, longitudinal grading of teachers ... . Some in the education business think otherwise, and we all need to have these debates. Because the future depends on it.

So if we write an editorial--or a series of editorials--on a proposed education reform, and don't mention parental involvement, it's not because we think it unimportant. It's because its importance is a given. And thus assumed.

But, still, thanks to Not-So-Gentle Writer for keeping us on our toes. Sometimes this column needs a letter "from" the editors.