Readers Write: Educating kids. Experts needed

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I believe in expertise. Some jobs are too specific to expect common people to perform them with any degree of competence. As a nation we’ve had this principle excruciatingly demonstrated in recent years.

This expertophelia extends to education. Experts in education should be determining curricular and pedagogical policy. Administrators who study and execute philosophical ideals should determine the former and classroom teachers deserve deference in the latter. This is a principle I stand by.

Port Washington’s recent debates over scheduling or stress among students, however, jump the curb on that purview. Educators opining on appropriate levels of activity for their students infringes on my expertise as a parent.

By the time I sent my daughters to kindergarten, I’d logged some considerable hours with them and getting to know them on an individual basis. By the time they got to high school, I dare say that I actually knew them pretty well. Educators telling me how I should be raising my kids spits on my experience as a parent.

Unstructured time is something I like providing my kids. Time to read what they like, create their own play, build organic relationships with their environment and the people within it: this is what I as a parent love to watch. Driving that process into the regular school hours robs me of that opportunity.

Emphasizing ‘play clubs’ or more recess during the school day detracts from the opportunities for the kind of structured learning that parents rely on schools to provide. We parents can calibrate the appropriate levels of activity in the afterschool hours. That’s taking advantage of our expertise. Yet by making the school day more lax, a significant percentage of parents will likely respond by compensating for that laxity with boosted rigor in extracurricular activities.

So the pursuit of high ideals, when extending beyond the natural scope of one’s individual area of expertise, crashes and burns in a tragically predictable failure.

This also has an unavoidable consequence of inequity. Academic rigor in public schools gives all children the boost they need to succeed in further academic and professional pursuits. Forcing academic rigor into an extracurricular context means that only those families with money can participate.

Kids without those same resources major in recess and have nothing else to challenge them. That will end up being the extent of their own expertise.

I resent being made to play the academic taskmaster when that’s outside my skill set. I resent that educators feel they are responsible for making my kids well-rounded when that is the purest definition of my skill set as a parent.

I resent that educators might usurp my role – a role I take very seriously – and let their role as educators die on the vine in a systemic slashing of the academically challenging school work my kids actually tell me they want.

I know my kids want harder academic work because I earn my expertise. I talk to them. I listen to them. I take my job seriously and expect professional educators to respect my sphere of responsibility.

My kids don’t need educators to teach them how to ride a bike, cross the street, use a knife and fork, or follow their curiosity from the loamy soil of boredom. That’s my job. I’m up to that job. I can’t teach them math. I can’t teach them physics or economics or Latin. Those disciplines demand a different expertise.

Douglas Parker
Port Washington

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