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I receive emails almost daily trying to persuade me to purchase ABC Mouse. A few nights ago a commercial for the same ABC Mouse program appeared on TV. The commercial certainly gives one the impression that by purchasing this program for your young child, s/he will become a genius by age four. These computer based lessons do appear to be quite colorful and entertaining.

I’m sure the program can entertain a child for some time. Youngsters are naturally drawn to brightly colored things. What could possibly go wrong?

There is no interaction with people – either young or old!

Ironically, the same day I also received an email that discussed a new public school program implemented in Cleveland that teaches kindergarten children social and emotional words. On the surface that sounds really nice.

Where are the parents?

The most important people in a child’s life are mom and dad. Far too many of our young children, especially those living in urban areas do not live in two parent homes. I am not going to go over that cliff right now, but I do believe our society is overlooking the importance of two parents.

I know I keep going back to “when I was in school” but that is my primary frame of reference! Just two generations ago the majority of children went home for lunch, took only one standardized test a year – if that, lived in a home with a mother and a father, was often physically disciplined at school if they misbehaved, AND got it again when they got home! And that is just for starters.

Oh, and this was before the establishment of the U.S. Department of Education.

In the classroom the teachers taught, created tests, graded them, then determined what to do next. They did not have to inspect backpacks for contraband (plastic toy guns) nor inspect lunches brought from home to ensure that they were nutritionally correct. Nope! They were busy monitoring the playground where children ran, played kickball and tag, and generally worked off any excess calories while getting a healthy break from study.

I will not even try to list the many responsibilities of today’s teachers. There are far too many and too many of those have little to do with actually educating children. The schools feed the children. In some cases the schools provide nearly all the food a child receives. I do not mean to imply that children should not be fed. But what has happened to our society when one of life’s most basic needs is provided by an institution and not by family?

As I noted in a previous blog, pre-school did not even exist before the mid-20th century. If children learned numbers, letters or learned to read before kindergarten, it was mom and/or dad who were responsible.

Children learn so much better when it is mom and dad teaching the basic principles of life. They learn by observation as well as personal experiences. I can still remember the only time in my life where I was called to the principal’s office. I was in the fourth grade and had on a light blue dress. I knew that when I got home, my life was over. Needless to say I never committed the offense – or anything remotely similar – again.

Why? Because mom and dad had instilled a very strong sense of right and wrong, and wrong was not an acceptable behavior. Fairness and equality did not enter into the conversation. If I was wrong (and I was), I had to face the consequences. Today the chances are pretty good that if a student is sent to the principal, dad or mom may come in with an attorney.

And we wonder why kids aren’t following the rules or are rude to one another? In order to correct the rudeness, the school decides to “teach” the kids about good and bad, right and wrong, proper social and emotional words.

How did we get 180 degrees out of phase?

Instilling life lessons and skills in children is the natural responsibility of parents and has been for centuries. For the most part that arrangement has worked pretty well. Not everything is perfect, nor will it ever be, but mankind has accomplished quite a bit under this system.

As the schools assume more of these parental responsibilities, teachers will be required to add even more to their already loaded list of tasks – tasks that interfere with actual academic instruction.

We already spend more per child than any other country with little to show for it. Perhaps if we went back to having parents parent and teachers teach, the outcome would be better.