Parents are our Trojan horse

14th November 2008 at 00:00

Penny Ward's comments (TESS, October 31) resonated with me when she mused on what kind of parents produce rough children. Is it my imagination or are parents becoming increasingly unmanageable?

For most teachers, parents fall fairly neatly into types - those who don't give a damn about their offspring and those who involve themselves over-much with their children. Both groups are bad news in the staffroom.

Take the control freaks first. These are the ones whose kids have an endless stream of activities after school, and who are always labouring the point about how they are nothing but a taxi service. Their kids will be taken out of school during term time because trips to Lanzarotte are unforgettable educational experiences, don't you know.

When they hit 16, the multiple activities will stop in favour of working four hours per evening in the local supermarket, and the parents will perceive no correlation between hours in employment and poor grades.

These same parents will sit opposite you at parents' evenings and interrogate you as to why their child failed the prelim. That fail is a blip, right? You daringly suggest that lack of effort might be the problem. Ah, slavers the parent, aren't you aware of his learning difficulties? You know, how he can think up brilliant ideas but just can't quite transfer them from his brain to the paper.

You nod as you recollect how this irksome teenager has to be coaxed to write every single word. You apply your metaphorical muzzle in case a smidgen of political incorrectness should escape your lips. Tell the dad that the kid is bone idle and he will sue you. OK, so he got 17 per cent in the prelim, but parent power dictates that he should still get to sit the final exam. How did we get ourselves into this mess?

As for the parents who don't care at all about their progeny, what's happening with them? A friend who is a paediatrician tells me he recently had to call the police when a father kicked up an aggressive fuss because he couldn't, or wouldn't, understand why his eight-year-old child had to be fasted for an operation.

Health visitors report that even people in apparently intellectually-challenging jobs have to be told to read to their children. How can I put this delicately? Are parents becoming thicker? We seem to be dumbing down in every area of life. People, for instance, don't know how to cook. Jamie Oliver has to march in with his Ministry of Food to save the nation's children from carry-out kebabs every night.

Where does this leave us? Thank goodness there's a middle group of parents. These are the parents who actually know where their 12-year-old is at 11 o'clock at night, who know it's not sensible for kids to be on social networking sites for endless hours and who try to impose limits on their children's behaviour.

Penny Ward wisely observed that schools do not impose boundaries on kids' misdemeanours. This is so disturbing at a time when we are contemplating the brave new world of successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors. Why have we not initiated a debate about society's fundamental values with Scotland's parents?

I fear the buzz phrases of A Curriculum for Excellence will yet prove to be our Trojan horse.

Marj Adams teaches religious studies, philosophy and psychology at Forres Academy.

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