An edited versions of this post appeared in the February 19 edition of the Knoxville News-Sentinel.
We should be able to reasonably expect our public school educators to respond to the questions and concerns of parents in a timely, professional and helpful way while never compromising the central task of providing the fullest and best education possible to our children. Their job is a difficult one in a county as broad and diverse as Knox County. Nonetheless, parents ought to always be seen as vital participants in the education process. In the same manner, parents ought to act with due appreciation for the vital task we ask our school system to accomplish each day.
There are many reasons why parents choose our public schools to provide the education of their children. Some parents do not have a choice. Public schools are the only schools financially within their reach. Some parents choose public schools because they want their children to attend the same schools that they attended. Other parents choose public schools because they understand that our nation’s strength lies in a quality education for all students and that their participation in our public schools adds to the quality and richness of that education as well as the strength of our nation. Still other parents choose public education for their children because neither the narrow sectarianism of the church school nor the exclusivity of the private academy satisfies their understanding of what education ought to be in a democratic society. Choosing to send ones children to public school should never be seen as an opting out or unwillingness to participate in the vitally important task of education. School administrators ought to expect parent participation and parents ought to expect to participate.
The recent events at Hardin Valley Academy around a Planned Parenthood presentation might have been less disturbing and frustrating if more and better communication had occurred. Unfortunately, that did not happen. The topic was a sensitive one about which parents obviously had strong feelings. The failure to adequately inform parents about their options regarding this class presentation was most unfortunate as was the administrations tardiness in responding to the parent’s legitimate inquiry.
Interestingly, figures recently released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that the birth rate among teenagers in the United States is down significantly. In fact, the birth rate among girls ages 10-14 in 2009 was lower than it had ever been since data began being collected in 1940. At the same time, the number of births among girls ages 10-14 in 2009 had not been so low since 1950. The birth rate and the number of births among older teens also decreased appreciably.
Ignorance does not serve us well. Education does work. To be certain, most parents would prefer for their children to be in a committed marriage relationship before becoming sexually active. However, not all young people will wait until they are in such a relationship. For those who chose not to wait, real facts and accurate information are of vital importance if we are to keep teen birth rate numbers in decline. Failing to adequately educate our children can only result in an increase in unwanted pregnancies and an increase in the number of abortions among teens. Let’s talk more, communicate better and share information with our children in age appropriate ways so that all of our children can be adults before they start having children of their own.