I was eavesdropping on a conversation between two former high-school teachers recently. They were discussing the lack of parental involvement in the education of minority students, particularly Black and Latino/a kids. They were saying that if there was more parental involvement, the kids would do much better in school, and their entire future would be different.
After hovering nearby for a bit, I finally spoke up. ”I know I’m not a teacher or anything, but it seems like this is a big problem.” Of course they agreed and I went on to explain that I didn’t just mean an important problem, but a pervasive, complicated problem as well.
I explained that for there to be more parental involvement with disenfranchised minority high-school students, several other criteria must be met. Their father shouldn’t be in prison. Minority males are locked up at a hugely disproportional rate and it’s difficult to help someone with their math homework from behind bars. Their mother shouldn’t be working three jobs to keep the lights on. If she has to work so much to keep food on the table, she definitely can’t be around for every little project or assignment.
The students would have to have a stable living situation. They can’t be getting bounced around in public housing or getting evicted while they’re giving up on learning their multiplication tables. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, even if both parents are present in a supportive, stable household, the parents themselves would have to be educated enough to be able to help their kids.
The conversation moved in another direction, but it’s important to consider how big some of our societal problems are, and that they don’t have easy solutions. Steps can be taken of course, but a lot of changes would need to be made in order to see any real difference.