Our Opinion: Parents play critical role in education

We agree with recent poll results that show a majority believes parents must bear greater responsibility for education.

The Associated Press-Stanford University poll on education revealed:

• 68 percent of adults believe parents deserve heavy blame for problems in the education system.

• Respondents blamed parents more than teachers, administrators, unions or government, with only 35 percent saying teachers deserve a great deal of the blame.

• Regarding pay for teachers, 57 percent of respondents said they are underpaid and 7 percent said overpaid, with the remainder believing the pay was about right.

Although we are fortunate that the majority of teachers are dedicated to education, we believe the profession has inherited too many tasks that are the rightful province of parenting.

For example, schools cannot limit television time. University of Washington researchers have found exposing children under age 2 to too much television can retard development of language skills, leaving them at a disadvantage when they enter school.

Studies also have linked poor nutrition with poor concentration and have found hungry students perform comparatively worse on standardized tests. Although schools provide lunch and, in some cases, breakfast, they cannot monitor a child’s every meal or overall nutrition.

Sadly, not every home is a happy one where youngsters are fed, nurtured and assisted with homework. Some students come to school tired and hungry; they may face violence from bullies or even in the home, if they have one.

Some are children of single parents or parents struggling with finances, turmoil, medical issues or drug or alcohol abuse.

Although a teacher’s role is to educate, learning does not take place in a vacuum.

Caring, compassionate teachers cannot ignore other problems, nor should they. Those problems often must be addressed to create an environment conducive to education.

But teachers — whether in public, parochial or private schools — are powerless when it comes to forcing parents to do their jobs more actively and carefully.

Imperfections inevitably plague any institution as massive and complex as the U.S. education system.

The poll results, at least, indicate awareness of those imperfections — a first step in making improvements.

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