Parents, Schools, and Government: A Partnership for our Children

Much has been and continues to be debated about what is best for our children’s education ranging from philosophy, methodology, and funding. While differences of opinions are abundant, I believe we can all agree that when children learn a task or concept well, their sense of personal worth grows and that feeling itself encourages them to seek more opportunities to discover. From the baby learning that by reaching out his arm he is able to grasp a wanted object to a preschooler learning to put letters together to write her name and then to a teenager learning how to apply the principles of coding to animate a picture or control a drone, this sense of wonder propels them to repeat that learning experience until a skill is mastered.

When our children reach kindergarten age, it is generally expected that they will be attending school to acquire knowledge that will help them develop their potential. Public education in public schools is society’s great equalizer, allowing all children access to the same trove of knowledge from which they will draw a particular skill or ability needed by that society. For this learning experience to be successful, however, a constant evaluation of the relationship between home-school community-government needs to occur.

Education is usually one of the most popular topics of discussion when governments are about to change hands: each will emphasize their own views on the subject, and each party will try to implement their beliefs when in charge. Consultants provide research and reports to validate a certain choice, funding will be directed or withdrawn accordingly, the School Board will divide these funds based on a pre-established formula regardless of particular needs of a community and it is left to school administrators and teachers to organize themselves and deliver the curriculum the government consultants deemed the most relevant.

This Top-Down approach frequently ignores or disregards classroom teachers or parents’ input, and makes experimental subjects of children. Parents’ concerns are addressed through quick notes,  short meetings with teachers, perhaps a meeting with a principal who may or not know the children in their schools well, as they are “recycled” around schools in their school board every few years. Issues are very often not resolved to the satisfaction of any of the parties involved, least of all the child. When change happens in this system, it is only because of advocates who dedicate their time and energy to modify something they believe is fundamentally wrong in the education of their children: these advocates are very often the parents of a child whose needs are not being met or whose basic rights they believe are being infringed at school. This comes at a high personal cost to families, as they may feel that their concerns are isolated incidents relevant only to their child, who may not have the time or money needed to adequately access resources not provided by the government in order to identify challenges, research solutions and then try to work with the schools and school boards in order to accommodate changes needed. It is a very lonely and stressful process to go through, and many parents give up and hope for the best, for a change of teachers, change of principals and sometimes a change of schools to resolve challenges.

Education as a right to all the children should be a given, but it should not be static. Nor should it be dependent on a political party that is voted in and out of governments. Families and children are the first to be affected by changes in their communities, whether positive or negative, short-term or lasting; teachers, as the front line workers in schools, will also experience these changes directly: these two groups should be the starting point for any major changes in education, their input sought and valued, the community dynamics observed, studied and the information gathered used for the development and implementation of new programs, methods, and curriculum. School Boards would provide personnel and resources, government the funding despite their ideological beliefs.

Education is vital for our survival: learning to interact with each other and the environment in the most effective way, learning how to grow, to build, to cure, to teach to accept and adapt will ensure our species survival and well-being. Education is not only a human right but a human need: our minds want and seek knowledge to thrive as our bodies want food and water to function and grow.

Where is the book in which the teacher can read about what teaching is? The children themselves are this book. We should not learn to teach out of any book other than the one lying open before us and consisting of the children themselves.

— Rudolf Steiner, Human Values in Education[33]

 

Theories of Learning 1 – Jean Piaget and Cognitive Development

 

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