Dr. Val Farmer
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Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Parents, Educators Share Their Views

March 20, 2000

Here are some letters I received in response to my column, "Education Begins at Home."

Dr, Farmer, I was so disappointed in the article, "Education Begins at Home." I have a 12-year-old son that has been diagnosed with ADHD by three different doctors - two pediatricians and a psychiatrist. He has also been diagnosed as having Oppositional Defiant Disorder.

The school could not handle his behavior problems and turned him over to Juvenile Services over a year ago. He has been treated the same as the kids that are on probation for theft, drugs, etc. I will start home schooling him next week because our community shares your views - it's our fault because we haven't taught him right and he is consciously being "bad."

I have read to my children. My "problem child" reads on an 11th grade level. I work part-time so that I can be at home with them and my mother has them when I'm not home. My son is not on probation for a lack of moral values. We are active members of a church and have high moral values. We place a high value on education. He lives in a two parent home where his biological parents are married and have been married for almost 20 years.

I am extremely frustrated. I want to take my son and run as far and as fast as I can, yet that is not being responsible or teaching him to be responsible. It takes a whole community to raise a child. School administrators and teachers are unprepared to offer help for children with behavior problems. Peers make these children "whipping boys." It does not all rest on the shoulders of the parents. Maybe you could do an article on unprepared educators. - A Frustrated Parent

Dear Dr. Farmer, I am responding from a middle-upper class middle school.

You are right on the money about what you wrote in your article. The only thing I would disagree with is that the school environment is worse in the middle-upper class school. ALL kids have shorter attention spans, but the higher income students with video games, cable/satellite TV, etc. are worse than the lower income students. I have found that this group of students is by far the poorest at following directions in all my years of teaching.

I am continually repeating myself, answering questions that students can find on assigned readings and classroom activities. I am continually asking students to focus/stay on task. I really believe that these students haven't had to work for anything in their lives at home, so I can see why they would expect that in school. They expect everything to be `edutainment,’ not education.

I have found less respect in this school most. Not only of teachers, but of each other, too. If you don't have the name brand clothing, the right hairstyle, etc., these kids are ridiculed beyond belief.

Both schools have a low moral value system. In my opinion, too much TV! I have students who know more about the educational WWF than they do about the subject matter. Where are the parents that let their children watch that kind of programming?

Once again, students (and parents) are looking for `edutainment.’ Why? Because they are so busy with their careers, they forget that their children need some real love and attention. So to make up for it, they buy the child whatever they want--what a tragedy!

Many students here are too tired and exhausted to learn because they are doing too much. Their parents have them involved in travel basketball, theater, after-school tutoring (babysitting), academic teams, speech, band, private voice/band lessons, etc. Kids have no time to spend with their family and friends, read, eat a meal as a family, play family games, etc.

I think that at least half of my students come from broken homes. It is no surprise that most of those students are struggling to learn because of the looming home problems. They try to get attention at school, but it is usually inappropriate. - A Middle School Teacher

Hi Dr. Farmer, You totally hit the nail on the head with so many of your comments about how much education/students have changed. And no - you have not overstated the case! Kids SAY things that I never would have dreamed of thinking, much less saying to an adult.

I have to add one major dilemma to the list which you did not address. Accountability.

A teacher can practically lose his/her job these days for holding a student accountable for his/her actions. It's almost a sin to be honest!

My perception is that this starts at home too - parents don't spend enough time with their children so they "love" them by saying yes to anything and never punishing them for misbehaving. When the kids come to school and teachers make the tough decisions and try to do what is right by holding the child accountable there are major misunderstandings. Kids take it very personally when you have to discipline them.

It's all very disconcerting and exhausting as an educator. As a young teacher I wonder all the time about how people stay in this profession for 20 - 30 years. I can't imagine doing a good job, caring, and being able to stay in it for that long. - A Minnesota Teacher.