Who is in charge of your child's mind?   Of any child's mind?   When we turn over the development of the mind to others, what risk do we take it will be fertilized with Terror versus Vigilance?


Friday--December 20, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 464
Who's In Charge
Of Your Child's Mind

Cliff McKenzie
   Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

GROUND ZERO, New York City, Dec. 20--"No!  No!  No!"    As I flicked on the television to catch the weather early this morning, I spluttered out the words when I heard a comment more startling than another Terrorist attack on New York City.

Is Mayor Bloomberg  commandeering  duties belonging to parents?

       Mayor Bloomberg's image  filled the screen as the newscaster on New York One relayed how the Mayor had done what no other Mayor had--taken control of New York's failing education system.  The state law was signed by Governor Pataki June 12 and took effect July 1.   The nation's largest school system joins Boston, Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit in cities that have put their mayors in charge of the schools.  It is a step better than what was before.  But isn't the solution.
       As he was being questioned about his successes as mayor during the last six months, Bloomberg retorted  "do parents have to wonder who's in charge of educating their children?   The buck stops here.  The mayor's in charge of their children's education."
       That's when I shouted, "No!  No!  No!"
       For years the Board of Education has been ensnarled in a bureaucratic maze where inaction and insulation protected the incompetence of a system responsible for the public education of 1.1 million children in New York's five boroughs.   In a first test of leadership, the mayor dissolved the power of the board and brought it directly under command of City Hall.  
        I suppose I was most concerned about the mayor's joyous announcement and about the press's accolades of his achievement. 
        What more Terroristic thought is there than to turn over the fertilization of a child's mind to another--to a stranger, to government?

          Yet that was the point.
         The buck indeed stops at the Mayor's desk.   On the buck is the mind of a child.   Over one million of them. 
          The idea of abdicating to third parties the education of a child is a form of tacit child abuse.  It is like handing over a child to a stranger on the street and saying: "Here, take my child.  Mold his or her mind as you will.  I'll pick him or her up later.  Do a good job."
           I had hoped the Mayor would say, "While the city has taken control of the education system for business reasons, to monitor its public responsibility to the parents, let me remind each parent that the precious and pliable power of a child's potential is not shaped in school, but by the parent's interest in the child's education.  Let us never forget the education of a child, any child, is the prime responsibility of the parents and guardians.  And let me warn all parents and guardians to always check and monitor the education of the child at school to insure it conforms with the education you as a parent wish for your child.  Let the educational partnership be strengthened between parent and child, and let the public school system be an extension not a replacement for the parents desire to give the child the best opportunity to grow and evolve as rich and prosperous citizen."
         Now, that would have sated my hunger for Vigilance.  It would have put the parent directly at the epicenter of the child's educational formation.
         But that didn't happen.
         Instead, the mayor became the Wizard of Knowledge.

Bloomberg, Wizard of Knowledge

         I have a lot of respect for Mayor Bloomberg as a leader who is capable of conducting the business of government on a fiscal level.  I was glad to see him continue in the  footsteps of Giuliani in the aftermath of Nine Eleven to help New York City rebuild its magnificent infrastructure after the horrors of September 11.
        But I do not think he, or any government leader, has any right or responsibility to assume command of the education of children.    The public school system is not the prime source of developing a child's mind.  In fact, the idea of giving a child's education over to any "system" is wrong, whether it be private or public.
        Education is the duty of the parents.
        It means a parent, to do his or her job properly, must be involved in the child's education.   Must work with the child on the homework assignments.  Must help them.  Must redirect them if they are being taught improperly.  Must be active in the school systems agenda, and, if there is a conflict of interest,  move to correct it.
       Personally, I went through school again with both my children.  My wife and I became their teachers' teachers, monitoring what they were taught, helping them, and refuting information that we believed was inaccurate or irresponsible, or politically misaligned.    We also worked on the social and emotional factors of their development--vital sub-elements of any education, and often as important as what is being taught out of text books.
        My position with my children, and I believe with any parent, is to "not trust the school system."   This is not a negative approach, it is a Vigilant one.   School systems are forced to teach the average knowledge that the average child will learn, and tends to water down information and edit it, and at present especially more than ever make it politically correct.   Most school texts are twelve to fourteen years behind times, having to go through a long process of review and approval and often include the revisionist pen of politically correct editors who change and alter the raw truth to meet the current climate.
       That's where parental educational leadership is demanded.

       The parent's obligation to oversee and monitor education far exceeds the mayor's.   If a parent allows the "system" to educate the child, this neglect can lead to a massive misunderstanding of education itself, and put a great gap between a child and parent.

       Some of the most precious moments with my children have been doing their homework with them--and having them be more right than I, and I becoming the student not the teacher.   It is easy to have a child participate with an adult if you have the child take on the role of the teacher, and you sit like the child listening to what the child is teaching.  The child will reflect what he or she has learned, and, if he or she is on target, you nod. If there is something you take issue with, you can raise your hand and ask your "child's teacher" to explain it, or, make a comment--thus, you teach by default and have fun.

         The child knows you are concerned.  The child knows you are the ultimate teacher.  You are his or her Sentinel of Educational Vigilance.
         I believe the child goes to school not to learn, but to learn to think.
         To insure that the child is learning to think, the parent must be involved.  The buck must top on the parents' desk, not the mayors.



Dec. 19--The Assassination of Democracy

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