L’Affaire Lynch Mob

Two quick thoughts on this whole “lynch mob” controversy in Los Angeles where the head of the teachers’ union there* characterized the parental trigger policy as lynch-mob like.    Background:  San Francisco Chron. is here and Antonucci is here.  Let’s stipulate it was a poor choice of words, he should apologize, and if he doesn’t his peers should call on him to do so.  

But the incident is noteworthy for two other reasons.  First, it does seem basically to be a Kinsley gaffe, not in the sense that it’s true but rather in the sense that this is what a lot of folks believe about parents and why, despite all the rhetoric about “parental involvement,” you don’t see a lot  of people within education tripping over themselves to encourage it. 

Second,  and related, the teachers’ unions really hate this policy idea and are not keen to see it spread.  So given the viral way this whole lynch mob remark has spread it’s hard not to think that ultimately the real damage here isn’t bad PR, it’s much more attention to this trigger idea than there otherwise might have been.

*Update:  Per several notes, the way I wrote this was obviously unclear, the “there” referred to California, the head is the President of the California Federation of Teachers, Marty Hittleman.

By the way, over at the National Journal education blog they’re debating the parent trigger issue.

3 Replies to “L’Affaire Lynch Mob”

  1. “despite all the rhetoric about “parental involvement” you don’t see a lot of people within education tripping over themselves to encourage it. ”

    Quite true, with some clarification: By parent involvement, they mean help kids with their homework and assignments and do the teaching that otherwise should have been done in school. What they don’t want is a parent point out that they are doing what the teachers should be doing in class. That’s called helicopter parenting and teacher bashing.

  2. “… despite all the rhetoric about “parental involvement,” you don’t see a lot of people within education tripping over themselves to encourage it.”

    This is a very true comment.

    “Parental involvement” is one of those things in schooling that are easy to say, but hard to do. Easy to jump on the bandwagon, but hard to share your piece of the pie. And since very little about government schooling is about “making the pie bigger” (which is the primary driver underlying the rest of our society), almost nothing… really… gets shared by entrenched interests with anything to do with genuine parental involvement. (My estimates are one to maybe two to maybe three “basis points”… percentages of percentages…)

    I’m pretty sure that if you checked any audited financial statement of any government schooling jurisdiction, board, authority or school… anywhere… no line item would appear titled “parental involvement”. It just isn’t material. It is just never enough to matter.

    But the rhetoric is maintained. Because it is “harmless” to do so. What harm does a masquerade do? What harm from a “facade”? Well… imagine if fire extinguishers in schools weren’t real… they were just painted on. Imagine if schoolers were paid in play money. Imagine if children were just told stories, instead of science (like THAT would ever happen…).

    “Parental involvement” is one of the facades that is really never looked behind in government schooling. It is in nobody’s interests, really, to lift the veil. There is no authoritative consumer protection agency at work in government schooling. If it is scrutinized, it is scrutinized from very high altitude. Like spy satellites. That observe movements on the ground. And can’t distinguish between real tanks… or cardboard ones. Parental involvement in schooling is mostly cardboard.

    In Alberta there is a program called AISI (Alberta Initiative for School Improvement), which garners many tens of millions of dollars per year in funding (over half a billion dollars so far in the course of its decade long history). It is a pretty worthy initiative, as education initiatives go. However, that program includes requirement for initiatives to have an element of “parental involvement”. A review by scholars not long ago of what actually constituted parental involvement in AISI programming… struggled to really find any genuine involvement. In my opinion, it’s just a “check the box” dynamic. My own less scientific study of AISI involved the extent to which I was ever involved personally in any programs impacting my children in their schooling… in a school jurisdication that… being the largest in the province… garnered the lion’s share of AISI funding. All I ever noticed was every few years receiving a questionnaire with a few multiple choice questions generally asking how impressed I was with the program. My question in return is if that is what “parental involvement” means to schoolers, then surely any parent who troubles once every few years to ask their child how their day went at school is equally “involved”.



    P.S. I served on the AISI steering committee for two years as a volunteer parent appointee. One of two volunteer parents on a committee of a dozen or more paid schoolers. Good learning. Quality stuff. Good opportunity to contribute. But, I daresay, those many hours of travel and attendance at meetings and conferences by us two parents amounted to the greater part of any genuine “parental involvement” that the half billion dollars generated. From high enough altitude, however, I’m sure it looked real.

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