By Wade Sutton
VIVA Minnesota Teacher-Leader and co-author of the Minnesota report on principal evaluation
“Those who educate children well are more to be honored than parents…”- Aristotle
“What do you think?” – My Dad
My parents made me an educator. I see this when “the fishing grandpa” (my dad) spends time with my children. When choosing a lure, my son asks my dad and receives a question in return. “What do you think? What do bass eat? Where do they feed?” He stops to listen to my daughter sing. He encourages my youngest to tell stories. He draws out of his grandchildren the knowledge and curiosity of the world. He leaves voids for them to fill. Constantly.
I am realizing that my father treats them exactly like he treated me. When he prods their potential out of them, I see how I was raised. I see myself. My children treat each other the same way. They ask questions. They guide each other through discovery. They are educating. Whatever career they choose, they will be educators.
The first line for the defense of education is the parent. Without parents there is nothing the government or private enterprise can do to fix our education system. Parents not only hold the power and authority of the vote, but they wield this on behalf of their children. They are invested more heavily than itinerant politicians or tenured teachers. Parents are committed allies to reform education.
Our American education system needs help. Do not wait for an inefficient Federal Department of Education, bureaucratic educator unions and administrators, inclusive universities or tenured teachers to stop the decline. These do not bear the heaviest burden for our failure nor will they be our salvation. That is too easy. Above these, there is one group in America that holds both the authority and the most responsibility for the quality of our teachers: parents.
Because parents raise educators.
Without the foundation from home, studying pedagogy imitates but does not create a teacher. We can study Socrates, Jesus, Confucius, Rousseau, Gardner, Maslov and Montessori — these are all worthy. But what we need are homes that ingrain learning. It starts at home. My parents guided me to be a natural educator before I attended university or was given a license by the state. The state can’t make me an educator. This is impossible.
The truck drivers, senators, mill workers, teachers, musicians, accountants — these are the parents who must give their children the tools to study the great educators of the past and recognize themselves in them. Schools alone cannot do this. Universities alone cannot do this. Government cannot mandate this.
Parents can. Parents should. And parents do.
It is parents who are on the front line raising the solution to our educational crisis. It has always been this way. They also caused the demise. Parents are responsible for the education of their children in a far deeper way. They are responsible for raising educators.