Uncovering the School Cover-Up

July 30th, 2020 Posted by Susan's Musings 32 comments

Jason Gay is a talented writer and, despite a general apathy about  the topic, I sometimes do read his sports columns for the Wall Street Journal. His words are clear and witty, unexpectedly enticing me to spend a few minutes on matters of baseball, football and basketball.

Mr. Gay also writes on family issues and while his approach is often comical, a recent article left me more annoyed than amused. He lamented how poorly he was coping with his children  at home and how exhausted both he and his wife are. The idea that schools might not open in the fall loomed as an insurmountable challenge to him.

While I didn’t love the general tone of the piece, what particularly irritated me were two paragraphs in the middle.

“Let’s not ignore the serious problems we’re creating—how these issues with schools are causing learning gaps and putting disadvantaged children at an even greater disadvantage. Children who need extra educational support are in crisis…

‘Meanwhile, privileged families are creating their own little education yurts with tutors and tennis coaches and pastry chefs and widening the chasm between families who can and cannot bathe problems in money.”

Excuse me? Where do I even begin to list the many flaws in this?

Let’s look at his, “serious problems we’re creating.” The fact is, that schools have been creating serious problems for decades now that result in more “disadvantaged children.”

Society has been living a great lie—that the government can replace devoted parents. Do you want to have a child without a spouse? Go ahead! All families are equal. Do you want to invite a rotating cadre of boyfriends to live with you and your children? It will be the school’s job to see that your children are emotionally healthy. Are you an immigrant? The school’s job is to welcome your child but not to integrate him into American life or demand that he or she learn English—after all, every culture is equal and all languages are valuable. Do you tell your children that studying is a waste of time and model poor behavior and decision-making? Not to worry! The school will make your child learn as well as a child whose parents read to him and sit with her at healthy family meals.

We have prioritized imparting social and political views over education. We have treated students as bargaining pawns in union negotiations and destroyed what used to be an admirable public school system that produced literate, responsible and productive graduates no matter the poverty level in their homes. Was it imperfect? Yes. But there was no pretense that schools could and should fill every academic, social, emotional and psychological need.

Certainly, many children with special needs are more impacted by the closing of programs geared specifically to them. However, an incredible number of children who need “extra educational support” need that support because the schools they attend are awful and because we have devalued family and home life. We have pretended that having children is not the awesome blessing and responsibility it is, but rather one of hundreds of  “lifestyle choices.” The closure of schools has shone a light on how we have deemphasized the importance of being a parent and how unskilled even well-educated parents are in their most important task of raising the next generation. It did not create the problem.

I can’t ignore the disparagement of wealth that Jason Gay presents in the second paragraph I quoted. Money does not guarantee raising successful children—if it did, Seattle and Portland would most likely not be the disaster areas they are today. But for every parent who is hiring a pastry chef, thousands more are standing in the kitchen and baking with their children. Many more parents are reading stories and playing games with their children than are hiring private tutors. Not having to scramble to put food on the table so that you can spend time reading and playing games with your children is an advantage to which everyone should aspire rather than one that should be mocked.

“Bathe problems in money”? Really? Is it worthy of derision when parents delay gratification and work hard so that they can take care of their own children rather than expecting their fellow citizens to do so? If Mr. Gay’s children needed medical, educational or psychological help I imagine he would be happy to scrimp and sacrifice and utter prayers of gratitude for a saving account that would allow him not to “bathe” the problem in money but to solve, mitigate and deal with it.

I will still continue to enjoy Mr. Gay’s writing. But this article badly missed the mark.

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32 comments

John Holzmann says:

Thank you, Susan Lapin! I have heard and read the diatribes and SENSED there was something wrong in what the critics have been writing. But I really needed you to “lay it out there” and SPECIFY what is wrong with the “Social Justice Warrior” mentality, here, when it comes to education.

Society has been living a great lie—that the government can replace devoted parents. Do you want to have a child without a spouse? Go ahead! All families are equal. Do you want to invite a rotating cadre of boyfriends to live with you and your children? It will be the school’s job to see that your children are emotionally healthy. Are you an immigrant? The school’s job is to welcome your child but not to integrate him into American life or demand that he or she learn English—after all, every culture is equal and all languages are valuable. Do you tell your children that studying is a waste of time and model poor behavior and decision-making? Not to worry! The school will make your child learn as well as a child whose parents read to him and sit with her at healthy family meals.

We have prioritized imparting social and political views over education.

Thank you for your clarity. And for clarifying the implications of the critics’ comments.

Susan Lapin says:

Add to this John, that until Leftists care more about children than about hating President Trump and conservatives, children will suffer.

Jim Smith says:

Well said! We have enjoyed being creative with our grandchildren during this time.

Susan Lapin says:

Please do share if you have great ideas, Jim. I’m glad you are seeing your grandchildren – a lot of grandparents aren’t.

Judy Howard says:

Susan, thank you for the very true words you share from your heart. One thing you didn’t mention is the fact that children are often a status symbol for those who are the ones able to hire all the extra help for their children. Often, I have seen over the years that women see friends having children and they feel they have to have children also to “fit in” the social circles.. children are a blessing and it would be wonderful if they came into the world with parents who thought this. I love learning about God’s language from you and the Rabbi.

Susan Lapin says:

I believe there was a book a few years ago about parents on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. I didn’t read it, but I gather it was a horror story that makes your point, Judy.

Linda Glisman says:

Dear Susan,
You are absolutely correct with your analysis of Mr. Gay’s article and the condition of our culture today. As a former public school teacher, I can attest to the fact that many parents are negligent and some are amazing. Nothing can compensate for a healthy family life-style. A healthy family life-style can begin with everyone at the dinner table with conversation, a loving attitude, and thanking God for their blessings.
Linda

Susan Lapin says:

Linda, thank you for your confirmation.

Kristyn Hall says:

You can teach your children at home for very little money if you have a library card and access to the internet. A reliable printer helps, too. If children enjoy learning and learn to work hard, opportunities will open up for them as they get older to find their niche in the world. I grow so weary of hearing how elitist home education is. It is a straw man argument if ever there was one. My mother is a retired public school teacher and says, “Of course public education is necessary. What will families do without free babysitting and lunch?” (Obviously this is meant sarcastically.) People are just plain tired of their kids. I feel sorry for my boys because the activities we usually enjoy are not available, but we aren’t sick of being together. That’s just how we live. Thank you for another thoughtful Musing.

Susan Lapin says:

Kristyn, cities with terrible public school systems used to have wonderful ones. How about asking what changed?

Barbara Miller says:

Wise words! Right on target.

Susan Lapin says:

Thanks for writing, Barbara.

Hilary says:

My husband and I chose to sell our very nice middle class home and buy a fixer upper in a working class neighborhood so I could stay home with my twin, four year old boys. They love cooking with me, they love my numerous ‘bad accents’ that I give to each character as I read to them, they love vacuuming the house to ‘help out’ and they love helping me pull weeds in our small yard as our less than 6 figures income doesn’t allow for any of the assumed advantages of the wealthy.

Honestly, I feel I am blessed more than those ‘wealthy’ that he mentions. Please don’t get me wrong, I sometimes get distracted and dream about how incredibly glorious those wealthy luxuries would be. The problem is that downplays my current blessings and the beauty I have right here and now in my ‘unadvantaged’ life. A couple of my extremely wealthy friends are miserable right now during this Covid affected time… not me, life is as usual, filled with lots of talking, reading bible stories, cooking, fun, daily reading and math lessons and sometimes huge messes. 🙂

Thanks for sharing and reminding me how truly rich I am today and every day… even with books and toys purchased from neighborhood garage sales.

PS. I aspire each day to be a happy warrior… I am currently working on waking up with alacrity (my weakness).

Susan Lapin says:

Ahem, Hilary – I have been failing in the waking up with alacrity department myself lately. But, I understand completely how blessed you are and that it isn’t because a multi-millionaire uncle left you a legacy.

Joanie says:

Dearest Susan,
Once again, I am so elated that you speak up in these times when social media is extracting conservative values and replacing anything moral to socialistic marxist nonsense so politicians can play their games.

You delight me in your every sentence and give me more hope than you can imagine. Whatever is happening is not healthy but demoralizing to Judeo Christian values. I am outraged at the display of the younger generation trying to take control of everything.

This culture war is worse than a virus! It is destructive, demeaning and with all the wealthy politicians who are afraid out of their minds, I can only pray the next election will bring them to their knees before a HOLY AWESOME wind that will bring them a fire they will not forget and turn from this evil path.

Susan Lapin says:

Amen, Joanie. I do believe also that a lot of the response to this virus is part of politicians playing a game and trying to crush conservative and religious values.

Vickie L Sanderson says:

From an aunt who enjoys her nephew’s 6:30 am request for peaceful breakfast and game time each morning before the siblings wake up, I say, “thank you, Susan!” Every moment we spend with God’s little ones is a blessing, not a fall-short as defined by the world.

Susan Lapin says:

What fun for you and your nephew, Vickie. He’s fortunate to have you and you him.

Joanue says:

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU FIR SUCH WISDOM!

Susan Lapin says:

Joanue, it’s not easy to sit next to me when I read the paper because I get quite vocal in my reactions.

Mark says:

Haha, that’s funny! I can imagine it. (I am much the same.)

Martha Weldon says:

Well done, my friend. I’ve sent this to my educator daughter and teacher friends. Thank you!

Susan Lapin says:

Teachers are fighting a difficult battle if they are actually educators in the best sense of the word, Martha.

Lynne Cohen says:

Right on Susan Lapin. Could not agree more!!

Susan Lapin says:

Lynne, the attempt to make anyone who has accomplished anything feel guilty is outrageous.

Shirley says:

If you can “ bathe problems in money” to help, the Washington, D.C. schools would produce excellent scholars. They spent about $30,000 per child and maybe 20% of the students are “ proficient” in math and reading, no less scholars. How many politicians send their children to these schools? Children need parents who spend time with them, involving the children in their lives, teaching them good values, hard work, excellence, wisdom, and knowledge.

Susan Lapin says:

This is such an excellent point, Shirley. Thanks for adding it.

LisaMarie says:

Thank you for saying what I have been thinking. I have an MBA and walked away from a career to homeschool my children because the public schools couldn’t offer what I could give them. Yes, it required lots of financial sacrifices, but my children are more important to me than new cars, vacation homes, and trips to Europe. The gift of time with my children is a precious gift from G-d and not to be squandered. People who are “exhausted by their children” are often the same people who refuse to impose any rules or teach them manners because they “want to be friends.” Our society is already reeling from a generation of kids that have been “unparented” (Seattle, Portland). If these “exhausted” parents actually start doing the job of parenting instead of expecting the schools to do it for them, they might be surprised how pleasant it can be to be with their children.

Susan Lapin says:

Lisa Marie, I know it sounds counter-intuitive to many, but often the more time we spend with our children in a thoughtful way, the more enjoyable is our time with them. Parents who cannot handle the four days between school ending and camp starting might enjoy having their kids home for the summer if they put as much work into that as they put into their hours on their paying jobs.

Kristin Grose says:

A cringe-worthy commentary by Mr. Gay that illustrates what you rightly point out and I find most discouraging about such a large swath of contemporary parents. God bless, Susan.

Susan Lapin says:

Kristin, I’m afraid by the time many of us find out what bad ideas we have absorbed, we have missed certain boats.

Thomas Hammett says:

Amen, and amen.

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