Parents Stuck Child-minding


Or
I think that's called parenting, Jon

I spent a few quality minutes with The Province Wednesday Apr 28th, after throwing a drumstick and some pre-fab hashbrowns at the one member of the family who had found his way home.

I buy the paper more frequently than anyone in this family can read through it.  I go first to the horoscope (surprise!) then I read the comics I like.  I skip lots, but always read Sherman and Dilbert.  Then I go to the front of the Entertainment section to catch up on Brangelina and Lindsay and the rest of the gang.  Finally, if time permits, I head to the editorial section where real news turns up and is not only encapsulated, but tells me what to think of it. 

If I'm eating slowly enough, I then close the paper and start at the front page.  This is how I wound up reading Jon Ferry today (Wednesday Apr 28.)  I like Jon.  I've read him in the past when I've had a second helping and made it this far into the paper.  However, today he got my goat.

He writes a very informative column about the crisis that education has fallen into with funding cutbacks that mean a lot of fat-trimming at the school level and often little at the administration level.  I agree with him that a royal commission is overdue. 

However, in taking the Vancouver School Board to task, he writes that the school board's approach merely "off-loads the funding problem onto already-overtaxed parents, who now are stuck with extra child-minding duties."  (Italics are mine.)

I used to wonder if columnists deliberately seed their work with inflammatory comments like this to see if they get a rise out of the readership.  Consider me arisen, Jon.

First, I totally agree with the financial side of it.  I am a tax-paying parent and I am reluctant to take on further tax burdens.  But the burden of child-minding? 

Taken in its best light, his comment could mean that parents are now burdened with trying to find child-care for the extra week of Spring Break etc.  If so, say "child-minding expenses," because there's no "extra" when it comes to "child-minding duties."  Parenting is twenty-four, seven.  Delegate all you want, but you're still on duty.  You're it.

Which brings me to the other half of the column I take issue with--the bit where he compares the quality of education in a private school to one in the public school system.

"The class discipline was better, the parents more engaged and the teachers worked harder to ensure each student's talents were developed.  Also, there wasn't all that left-wing brain-washing."

Okay, not sure what he means with the left-wing brain-washing comment.  Perhaps I'm guilty of it for standing by the public school system, which strives to ensure that every Canadian child receives some kind of standardized education.  Perhaps he thinks only rich kids deserve to learn their ABC's, but I think every kid deserves a shot.  I'm left-wingy that way. 

And since the public system serves every child, no matter their potential, background, native language, or physical or mental struggles, the public system sometimes struggles to achieve its objective. 

I used to live on the coast and my kids were in a public school of five hundred kids.  It was a nice school and some bigwig came by and said so.  The principal at the time said, "Of course it is.  Look at the neighborhood."  Lots of nice homes.  Lots of two-parent families, many of them dual income.  Many of the parents were well-educated and they engaged at the school level because they engaged with their children.  That's the kind of people they were.  They took their parenting duties seriously. 

I'm not arguing that private schools have more to offer, but I think they receive more in the way of engaged parents and disciplined, naturally talented children.  Therefore, it's grossly unfair to suggest that private schools offer much-need competition to public schools when it's not a level playing field.  Private schools aren't shouldering social problems the way public ones are.

Case in point: parents (according to Jon Ferry) have to take on extra child-minding duties when the school shuts its doors for a couple of extra days.  Whether he's arguing that parents shouldn't be shouldered with extra time with their kids or extra costs for daycare, the fact remains, neither of those things has anything to do with education. 

I'm running long here and will address another angle of this in a day or two with "All-Day Kindergarten," but the bottom line here is that school isn't a babysitting service.  About six years ago, here in School District 51, the school week went to four days.  Everyone freaked and you can still find pockets of people arguing that daycare is an issue on Fridays, but the majority of families love it.  I do.

Having an extra day each week with your kids--or one week a year for the Vancouver families--isn't a punishment, Jon.  Here's a thought:  Take that week as vacation and spend it with your kids.

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