IP-7-1990 (April 1990)
Author: Arnold Burron
A mother has been granted time on a school board agenda to speak about her elementary schools reading program. She is concerned that children are not learning basic word attack skills. She knows it is important to present her case effectively since the last critic of the reading program was publicly humiliated. She wants to have up-to-date information and to exert maximal impact. What does she do?
A father learns that his daughters eighth grade class is scheduled to see the film, The Living Body: Shares in the Future, as a part of a sex education unit. He has been told by a friend who is a teacher that the films introduction shows an adolescent boy and girl, nude from the waist up, holding hands and facing each other. This parent is upset and wants to protest the showing of the film. He remembers, though, that the last parent who protested was stonewalled by the school administration, and he wants to be more effective. What does he do?
The well-documented politicization of the American public school classroom, the rising clamor for special attention by a growing number of increasingly vocal constituencies, and the obvious introduction into schools of attitudes, values, methods, and activities that dont reflect what many community members desire — all these trends have brought parents into collision with educators more frequently in recent years.
Acts of commission or omission which seem to betray the trust and authority delegated to public education from voters, taxpayers, and families, can be summed up in the term curriculum abuse. Of course, whether an abuse has actually occurred is often a subjective question, a judgment in the eye of the beholder. Some parental concerns are valid, some not, and even certain valid ones may stand a better chance of being solved if confrontation is avoided in favor of other remedies.
We offer this pocket guide on seven of todays hottest instructional concerns with a dual aim — to suggest how parents can exert a constructive influence and to smooth the road for educators when their good-faith actions (correct or mistaken) are met with backlash.
For each issue, after summarizing the typical allegations, we attempt to add perspective through facts, then probe some ramifications, recommend a corrective approach, and map the best avenues of influence. If struggling with a curriculum controversy where more heat than light is being generated (whichever side of the battle line you are on), this simple analytical approach is for you.