I think williamyard responds well in this comment to the TNR post linked above:
As I've noted before, discussions about education-system fixes ignore the primary cause for student failure: their parents. One rarely even reads the words "parent" or "parents" in any such discussion. Student achievement is hugely determined before a kid ever walks into an elementary school classroom. Yet for a variety of reasons, parent accountability is rarely discussed.Of course williamyard is correct when he says parents need to do their job. I have said this many times, and any sane person realizes that parents have responsibilities and one of those responsibilities is to raise their children to be good, productive citizens. If they can't do it, it's not that someone else can or will--it's that we're fucked if parents don't start parenting.
Education reform needs to start before conception, when a future mother's intake of nutrients and poisons begins to enhance or limit the future brain of a human being who does not yet exist. The reform needs to continue by providing either aggressive preschool availability and standards, successful involvement of parents in early childhood intellectual development, or, ideally, both.
We've come to the place in this country where we think the primary responsibility to educate a child is the society's. It's not. It's the parents', which is one big reason why 30% of our students aren't finishing high school. Unfortunately, reinstating parents' responsibility and authority requires cultural shifts that at this point we seem unwilling to make.
Righting every wrong accrued by bigotry and poverty will do little unless Mom and/or Dad ensures that Junior walks into first grade with a basic respect for his peers, with an understanding of the alphabet, with many evenings of being read to sleep under his belt, with exposure to counting, with exposure to three-dimensional object relationships, with some practice in the hand/eye coordination needed to successfully manipulate a pencil, with exposure to artistic expression (e.g., finger painting, play-doh, beating drums), with the ability to share with peers, with nonviolent behavior, with the ability to practice basic hygiene and personal safety, with regular rest and adequate nutrition, with current vaccinations, with the ability to maintain attention and focus in an environment devoid of electronic stimulation, with hearing and vision tested as adequate and corrected as needed. Et cetera. Et cetera. Et cetera. Every parent should be held accountable for every single item on the above list, and more. We do not allow a parent to beat a kid with a baseball bat--that's child abuse. Failing to prepare a child for society is a softer form of abuse, but it is still abuse. Why is this tolerated?
We lack the courage to attack this problem at its core, so instead we play these little games of throwing good money after bad.