Schools Assigning Homework for Parents — What Do You Think?

4 10 2007

The New York Times runs this story today and invites comment here:

Damion Frye, a ninth-grade English teacher at Montclair High School in Montclair, N.J., has asked the parents of his students to do homework. The ninth graders complete their assignments during class; the parents are supposed to write their responses on a blog Mr. Frye started online.

If the parents do not comply, Mr. Frye tells them, their child’s grade may suffer — a threat on which he has made good only once in the three years he has been making such assignments.

Some parents say they like the assignments because they can spark intellectual conversation with teenagers who are normally less than communicative. Other parents aren’t as happy about their homework.

What do you think of assigned homework for parents as a way to get them involved with their children’s education?

First thing I thought of was the notorious superintendent who just took over a New Orleans district, the guy who thinks school should replace family, you know, the one with the brilliant but extralegal idea to have teachers grade parents on how they dress and feed their kids, and then send home parent report cards. (See “Schools
Re-forming Into Substitute Families”
)

The next thing that came to mind was, if schools and teachers know so much about parenting and education support within the family, then why don’t they just teach it to the schoolkids in their classes now, so they grow up as a generation of great parents? Problem solved! (See NHEN’s parent involvement forums)

“We want to see a society which is composed of adults, people who can choose and act and change, who can hope, who can make a difference, who can be sorry when they fail, who can empathise, who can continue learning. It does not happen by accident.
[or by government-assigned homework and testing of the whole family!]
If we go on producing grown-up infants we can hardly wonder why different sorts of violence and dysfunction persist in our society.”

My last comment in that forum: “If all this is part of a larger trend, involved parents had better focus on more than choosing between school fixes or school avoidance.”

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17 responses

4 10 2007
JJ

LOL – a dad of true “maturity” on our parent-directed education list just called this teacher a “self-important little twerp” with a Napolean complex.

Not to be a reverse ageist or jump to conclusions, I realize now how much I didn’t know as a young, childless Ph.D. who thought I knew it all. Age and experience do make a difference in one’s perspective and evaluation of alternatives. 🙂

So I reread the story and noticed the teacher’s own high school graduation was class of 1994. I’m thinking well, if he were a teen parent he could maybe have his own child entering high school by now, maybe that’s why he is so sure he’s right about this and he wants to save other parents from his own mistakes? — but then I Googled him and he’s barely 30!
According to Damion Frye’s MySpace page, he’s just barely a daddy too, qualified to give authoritative diapering and burping advice, first words and first steps and Baby Mozart critiques maybe, but nothing more chronologically advanced than that. According to the birth announcement in this alumni newsletter, his wife is an education graduate too, and their only child seems to be still too young even for preschool, won’t turn four until Thanksgiving week.

His self-reported academic credentials don’t make up for the lack of real-world parenting expertise imo (he didn’t exactly study cognitive psychology as a wunderkind with Howard Gardner at Harvard, or linguistics with Steven Pinker) but his bachelor’s is from Bates College, interesting, note the SAT optional admissions policy.

But it was in “African American Studies” (sigh, I don’t think much of “women’s studies either) and his master’s was in teaching, and he’s spent the past five years (all while teaching teens and parents what he’s so sure they should know and do?) dabbling in a Ph.D. program at Columbia Teachers College that will no doubt make him even more insufferable . . .

Maybe his life goal all along has been to get that doctorate and go be a Bates professor, where such “innovative” education ideas are welcomed and his status as a superior intellect would finally be confirmed? At that point he will write books and I might even be interested in his thinking about education reform.

Especially the departure from standardized testing that Bates is pioneering!

(For more thoughts on parenting education for unique quality rather than standardized quantity, see Rolfe and FavD blogposts.)

4 10 2007
JJ

These young teachers might not be education lions, just workaday teachers, but as long as they’re playing around with their own family lives and not mine or yours, they could be cool. 😀

Apparently the aforementioned wife is an elementary school teacher whose maiden name was Cheese. When they married, she did the hyphen thing and became Sheila Cheese-Frye. Photo with caption here.

5 10 2007
JJ

You know, I remember when Professor Rob Reich (Herr Doctor “homeschooling is ethical servility” from Stanford U.) first came on the scene at NHEN. One of my biggest frustrations with him was that he didn’t know what he was talking about as a parent himself. He only had one baby boy at the time.

But that was several years ago — I wonder if by now, his professional philosophy and teaching of others has been informed and enriched by his real-world experience educating himself every day as a parent?

More on Reich blogged here at Snook:
“Rob Reich Leads Liberal Thought in Chains That Set Us Free”

“Should I Homeschool? Philosopher Says Yes Nine Ways”

Homework for parents rather than kids? Caffeine for parents rather than kids would do more good:
See School Breakfast Story Part Two — Get Out of My Kitchen”:

“Public education is a set of goals and ideals, not a particular institution.”

The main difference between our national addiction to caffeine and our national addiction to compulsory schooling, is
that WE drink the coffee instead of forcing it on our kids — maybe that’s the key then, getting enough caffeine in our own systems to wake up and see Compulsory Schooling as politburo, corporate marketing and global workforce interests, all brought to bear against our little kids as individuals with their simple tastes and needs, who in most cases would be happier, healthier and maybe even smarter just enjoying peaceful, private bowls of cereal at home on their own schedule, off the public radar.

5 10 2007
JJ

The New York Times has a story today about the decade-plus it takes to earn a doctorate, especially in education, and how half never finish the required dissertation, a state of perpetual suspended animation ruefully and somewhat derisively called “ABD – all but dissertation” —

Maybe we should call these universally prescriptive young education experts on parenting ABD too — All But Dad.

5 10 2007
JJ

Ah, leave it to the real-world women!

Maybe there is hope after all. Here’s a blogpost from a demonstrably “mature” teacher AND mom who knows what she’s talking about from both ends of the burning candle:

This sort of boggles my mind as I remember my own life as a working mother and teacher. It was hard enough to keep up with grading papers and helping my own kids with their homework. If I had had actual homework assignments, I probably would be in a fruit basket by now. My husband traveled a great deal, so I was the one that made sure we all were prepared and ready for the next school day. Wait a minute. I have to catch my breath just thinking about it.

Back to Mr. Frye and his group of 65 ninth graders. He seems to have established homework for parents as something that works for him.

I hope that politicians don’t jump on this bandwagon. While it might be just what the doctor ordered for some teachers and schools, it would be an organizational disaster for others.

Personally, I always enjoyed the free time I had with my own kids. Keeping up with a blog of comments written by parents would not have been my cup of tea.

5 10 2007
JJ

Watch out, his influence is spreading to other teachers — through the classroom of course:

#124

As a Secondary Education major at NYU studying under Damion Frye, I think that it’s shameful how many people have posted angry protests to such a small demand.

Parents who claim that these “homeworks” are an inconvenience should seriously reconsider their priorities. If you truly have your child’s interests at heart, then I’m sure you can devote five to ten minutes to reviewing their assignment and discussing what they’re learning in class.

And parents, please – “I finished with homework years ago?” Shame on you for thinking learning only takes place in a classroom, and that homework is only for grade school kiddos.

Watch out, angry parents – in two more years, I’ll be another Damion Frye, and you’ll be getting regular assignments. Study hard!

— Posted by Mallory Locke

Apparently we’ve failed miserably to communicate critical thinking and the real principles of independence through our entrenched compulsory education systems, to the point that now a student teacher can scold us with a politically straight face for protesting “such a small demand.”

5 10 2007
Nance Confer

“Gee, I wonder why the parents won’t listen to me. All I did was speak to them in the same disrespectful way I treat their children. It’s almost as if they resent my intruding into every facet of their lives.”

What I picture the clueless teacher mumbling as she checks her empty message board.. . .

Nance

5 10 2007
Deanne

LOL, Nance!!!! Exactly my feelings.

7 10 2007
JJ

From “Schoolkids Aren’t Conscripts in Your Ideological Army!“:

. . .real “education” for young people isn’t necessarily what keeps their elders feeling self-righteous, fully employed and in control of the culture. . .

Maybe the public has a very different “truth” about the “work of teaching” that we support as valuable, maybe something like educating kids academically to think for themselves rather than indoctrinating them into some social reform movement on our dime? . . . the citizens operate schools and direct the “work of teachers” rather than the other way around . . .

9 10 2007
Retailing Is the Fourth ‘R’ « Cocking A Snook!

[…] Is the Fourth ‘R’ 9 10 2007 Guess it keeps parents busy after they finish their own homework? “. . .fall is when a fourth ‘R’ appears in the region’s school curriculum: […]

13 10 2007
bkb

Have any of you actually seen the assignments he posts for parents? I found your blog (as well as several others critical of the teacher) while looking for the actual class website. I still haven’t found it. Many of you seem to make a lot of assumptions about his class and the level of interaction he demands from parents, but I have yet to see a link to his actual activities or assignments. It sounds like you’ve condemned him just on the basis of the NYTimes article. I’m a public school teacher in Texas, and I’ve given my kids’ parents homework. It was extra credit, so I didn’t penalize people as Frye does. That’s why I’m looking for the blog. I want to see it for myself before I pass judgment. If anyone can point me in the right direction, I’d appreciate it.

13 10 2007
NanceConfer

Hey there bkb —

You missed the point.

The point is you, the teacher, work for me. You do not have any right to intrude into my personal life and tell me, the parent, how to spend my time. Period.

You certainly would not have the right to somehow punish my child, as the teacher in the article did, if I told you to do your job during the time you are with my child and leave me to do mine.

Nance

13 10 2007
JJ

Hi bkb, I’m a retired state ed department administrator and public school policy “expert” — if there’s any such thing (wry grin) — and I agree, you really miss the point. Badly!

The matter of his “demands” on parents being legit isn’t even a close call. In fact, here you can expect to find a spirited challenge to any teacher’s right to make demands on our CHILDREN, never mind on us! Are you prepared to retrench and justify that before you overextend your profession’s absurd overreach into private family lives any further?

A little friendly advice, suggesting the NEA drop its formal lobbying opposition to home education might be a strategic first step because, well really, who ASKED you? And who needs your approval anyway? Not us parents. Those kids are ours, not yours, even if we decide to register them in school at some point for our own reasons and remember, it IS our tax money sustaining your family, not the other way around.

Compulsory attendance laws (and the vast economic bureaucracy they sustain) may not be much more secure than the kid-killing boot camps going down for the count right now. If criminal kids can’t be abused by the system purporting to educate them, I’m fairly confident that innocent kids won’t long have to tolerate it. . .

14 10 2007
bkb

Wow. This is a really interesting place to stumble into. I’ve been peeking a bit into your different areas and posts. I can’t figure out where education went wrong for you. Was your experience in schools really that bad? “What I picture the clueless teacher mumbling as she checks her empty message board.. . .” I’m not really even sure what this is supposed to mean. Maybe I need to read the archives more. This seems to be a continuation of another conversation.

However, let me just clarify the point I was trying to make. You have no idea what the specifics of the situation are. You didn’t even bother to find out. I’m not defending Frye here. However, the cursory information provided by NYT was vague. I’m not sure his idea was valid, but I’m trying to investigate before I pass judgment. You don’t even care if his ideas are “legit.” Even if they are perfectly valid or reasonable, you’re against them. And you’re against them because Frye shouldn’t have asked you to participate in your child’s school life? Again, I find many things in his assignment questionable, not the least of which is penalizing the student for the parent’s lack of participation, but still I’d like to see his website for myself. Am I mistaken in thinking that none of you have actually seen it?

I wanted to make one additional point here. In my opinion, and the opinions of many others in education, I don’t actually work for you. You don’t employ me in the strictest sense of the world. I’m an employee of the district that employs me, and unless you are somehow directly affiliated with that district, I’m not sure how I’m supposed to work for you. You have nothing to do with my evaluation or my daily It’s that same old battlecry from my days in school: “My tax dollars pay your salary!” If you understand school funding in your state, and it varies from state to state, that statement is only partly true. I’ll close by adding that many teachers, administrators and educational leaders feel that the very problem at the heart of public education’s many-faceted dilemma is that people who have no professional educational or classroom experience, mainly parents and school boards, are the ones who have an enormous amount of control over what we are supposed to teach. Yes, you went to school in your day. So did I. But that doesn’t mean that you are the expert on the experiences and lives of my students.

You’re certainly right to pull your kids from school and educate them yourselves if you don’t agree with what goes on. In fact, I think you should. But don’t assume you leave behind a bunch of sheep who just do what they’re told or have blinders on to real families and real kids.

14 10 2007
JJ

So you acknowledge that local parents and citizens do have “an enormous amount of control” over teaching — sounds like as a teacher you just resent this reality, because you think you know more than they do about THEIR experiences, lives and children?

“Yes, you went to school in your day. So did I. But that doesn’t mean that you are the expert on the experiences and lives of my students.”

As it happens I AM a school expert, as I said above but you apparently didn’t heed — I have an earned doctorate in education leadership and instructional design, plus a couple of decades of school, district and state level experience in public school policy issues of every kind (instructional media, information management and community relations, legislative and legal, finance, accountability oversight, personnel and labor negotiations, crisis management, a stint as school principal, superintendent’s grievance hearing officer, and school board spokesperson.)

A two- or three-star general in the school system chain of command. Even from that lofty rank though, I still don’t feel justified in giving anyone homework, and you make no argument above that COULD justify it. Not even the start of a clumsy one. No school system employee and/or official is qualified OR authorized by law to give assignments binding or otherwise (much less report cards) to the parents, citizens and taxpayers.

14 10 2007
JJ

Nance, remember this equally egregious story of Clueless School Overlords?
Why Not Paddle Naughty Parents?”

16 10 2007
JJ

To connect this with another powerful idea, maybe these young ambitious teachers who expertly impose round-the-clock demands on the rest of us — and their school/professor bosses and society generally — all have been doing schoolwork and homework themselves for their whole lives, making the grade, working their way through college and grad school while teaching and writing and becoming parents. Maybe all in all, they’re more pathologically sleep-deprived and addicted to cortisol and delusions of their own work’s value just to keep themselves going one more day, than they’re driving our kids to be!

Politicians too, no doubt.
Maybe much of what’s wrong with everything can be traced to the REM not traveled by? 🙂

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