The Myth of the Helpless Parent

Common-Core-Sign_thumb.jpg“I Can” statements are all the rage in our public schools. Students are to say “I can” and then positively reaffirm something they feel capable of doing.

I’m offering suggestions for “We can” statements. If your school district obeys the law, tells the truth, spends money wisely, and properly educates children, then you probably don’t need these. Sadly, most citizens don’t have a school district like that, and this article is directed to them.

Parents have been trained for decades to trust in America’s K-12 government schools. This trust now serves the districts but not the students within them. Most districts aren’t being held accountable for violations of the law; failures to properly educate children; improper spending of tax dollars; or long-term refusals to tell citizens the truth.

Many districts seem increasingly dictatorial, deceitful, expensive and intrusive. We trust them with our children, and in return, they lie to us, miseducate our children and blame us for their failures. When we question them, some even attack us, using government/media/corporate allies to help pile on. They retain power in the way schoolyard bullies do, by ensuring that parents remain cowed, isolated and uninformed. It’s ironic. In reality, parents have all of the power.

Most parents don’t know that. Schools have purposefully fostered a sense of helplessness in parents (and in students and teachers), training us to believe that we must do as we’re told. Schools couldn’t eliminate parents altogether, but they could create parents who agree to eliminate themselves.

Schools thus trained successive generations to work in a group, defer to the group, think as a group, achieve consensus with the group, be assessed with the group, and defend group decisions. Punishments and rewards have been used to mold thinking and behavior and to direct energies. Parents are encouraged to be involved in the schools, as long as our involvement brings in money, furthers the agenda and doesn’t question the authority. Obeying = Rewards. Dissenting = Punishments.

Nowadays, when schools praise “critical thinking,” they usually mean non-critical thinking or groupthink. When they talk about community “input,” they tend to receive it via the Delphi Technique, a way of manipulating groups to agree on predetermined conclusions. When they ask for parent “help,” they mean any help that doesn’t question the authority, not even to help a child.

Meanwhile, parents have long been shut out of the education of our own children. Books are eliminated, homework isn’t sent home, traditional methods are derided as “old school,” and our wishes are undermined or ignored. Parent preferences are openly criticized and dismissed, and in conferences, we’re told: “Don’t teach that at home. Don’t help. You’ll just confuse your child.” Schools now use technology to hide the curriculum – on tablets and laptops and in private email accounts for children.

This operant conditioning – skillfully done, I’ll give them that – has produced a population that generally feels helpless. Worse, it accepts feeling helpless. This population doesn’t need to be shut down; it shuts down itself. “Oh, no, I couldn’t. It will be OK. They must have a good reason. They must know what they’re doing.” Such apathy suits authoritarian, intrusive governments. It’s easier to implement an agenda with weak and politically aligned sheep than with individualistic and critical thinkers. Most of us do find now that it’s easier, safer and infinitely more profitable to be sheep.

And yet, dissent is critical to helping our children, to serving our honor, and to maintaining a free country. We’re helpless only in our mind. The government cannot make our child take a test. It cannot force us into its failed bureaucratic, narcissistic, adult-centered system. Not unless we allow it.

We can say no to this government. We can refuse to allow it to eliminate our ideas and preferences, or to miseducate, misuse and misguide our children.

Few “leaders” are likely to help us. Most now are part of the government network. Think of the vast array of government and elected officials, their associations and throngs of legal teams – now “partnering” with influential people and non-accountable, non-transparent corporations, organizations and foundations – to implement policies that suit them. Instead of partnering with parents for a better education system, they partner with each other to implement policy, gather data on us and our children, sell their products and services, and implement a political and social agenda. It’s a symbiotic relationship for them, but it’s largely parasitic toward us and our children.

They help each other. They sit on boards, hand out grants and contracts, campaign, advertise, lobby, buy and sell. They socialize together, travel together, praise each other, help friends and family members gain preferred positions, and allow each other to get away with things.

These “partnerships” might be fascist in nature (the government controlling the corporations), or corporatist (the corporations controlling public policy), but in any case, they’re neither democratic nor representative of a Republic. America is being fundamentally transformed to a totalitarian state in which government and corporate cartels work together to do what neither is allowed to do by itself. It pays well now to be a government or corporate crony; it does not pay, and in some cases, it has become dangerous, to dissent from this government/corporate network.

The Network won’t spend our tax dollars wisely, won’t return control of our children’s education to us, and won’t stop its intrusive data collecting. It has no incentive to tell the truth or obey the law. Many media outlets – which are supposed to have our back –appear to be part of the Network.

Suddenly we find that – although our schools lack solid academic programs – there are laptops, iPads and SMART Boards in front of every child’s face. There are new curricula every few years, new calculators even in kindergarten, and cool electronic toys that don’t foster real learning. De facto national standards and tests are being pushed on all of us from cradle through career. When we ask who is doing that pushing, the feds point to the states and to non-accountable associations; the states point to districts; the districts point to legislators; the legislators claim ignorance.

Suddenly, some of us find that there are handguns in the hands of school employees. There are cameras and video recorders on the wall to track visitors, and new machines to scan our driver’s license, track our children, scan their irises, record their fingerprints, or track their biometric information.

Look around you – the K-12 education system in America has become freaking scary.

Citizens MUST be the dissenters. Our children’s future – this country’s future – is on the line.

Clearly, the American government no longer knows how to educate a child. That’s been proved in 10,000 ways. It has ceased to hold itself accountable, and it now works collaboratively to skirt laws and protect itself. This isn’t a left/right issue. This simply is “in” or “out” of the government/corporate Network. If you’re “in,” you’re taken care of. If you’re out, well, good luck with that.

But we aren’t stuck in this machine. We’re helpless only when we agree to it. My first “We can” statement is this: “We can say no to the K-12 government education system.” Here are some more:

  • Opt out of programs: We can opt out of failed academic programs, and out of excessively mature sex education classes and materials. We can find solid math and English curricula online, buy them, and start teaching them to our children.
  • Leave the system: When a school mistreats, abuses, blames, mocks, neglects or refuses to educate our children, we can walk out of that school and never look back.
  • Opt out of testing: We can opt out of state and federal testing that sucks up class time; tells us nothing of value; collects intrusive and flawed data on us; is manipulated to show success where none exists; and forces our children to either take math tests online or be labeled as special education.
  • Say no to technology: We can say no to excessive and intrusive technology and data collection.
  • Question the money: We can question the barrels of state and federal money allotted for special education programs that never seem to go to special education students. We can vote no to the next levy and bond for school districts that misspend taxpayer money; use taxpayer money against taxpayers; and lie to us about budgets, expenditures and outcomes.
  • Inform others: We can inform other parents, run for the school board, or help other citizens run. We can recall corrupt or obstructive board directors and push to replace superintendents and administrators.
  • Reject Common Core: We can push our legislatures to reject the de facto nationalization and radicalization of the American public school system, epitomized by the questionable, authoritarian and unproved Common Core initiatives.
  • Reject pretend “choice”: We can refuse to support charter schools that clearly are under the thumb of local school districts.

We can say no. We can make a good system happen. We can help our children, fix the problems, rebuild an accountable government and put responsible individuals in power. We can homeschool, find private schools, hire tutors, or ask family members or friends to teach our children what the schools will not. We can step away from the entire madness of public education. Believe me, folks, it’s a mess. It’s much worse in 2014 than it was in 2007, even as our avenues of dissent have narrowed dramatically.

The government/corporate Network depends on us thinking we’re helpless, that we can’t say no, that we don’t know any better, that they mean well, that they really do care about our children, and that they will eventually do what’s right.

Don’t believe it. We are not helpless, we can say no, and we do know better. The Network doesn’t mean well, it doesn’t care about our children more than it cares about itself, and if the Network was ever going to use its considerable power to do what’s right for our children, it would have done it by now.

3 thoughts on “The Myth of the Helpless Parent

  1. Good article, Laurie. I especially like this paragraph:
    “Suddenly we find that – although our schools lack solid academic programs – there are laptops, iPads and SMART Boards in front of every child’s face. There are new curricula every few years, new calculators even in kindergarten, and cool electronic toys that don’t foster real learning. De facto national standards and tests are being pushed on all of us from cradle through career. When we ask who is doing that pushing, the feds point to the states and to non-accountable associations; the states point to districts; the districts point to legislators; the legislators claim ignorance.”
    The era of “no accountability” is all around us today. Remember how John Saxon railed against math textbooks being written by “committees”? No accountability for the textbooks’ performance as a tool is the method of avoidance for responsibility by adults in charge of children’s learning. Notice how few math textbooks have an author’s name on them? I only know of one today: Saxon Math. And that, sadly, is for only grades K-8. Saxon high school books are now being “built” by the new owner’s “committees” of writers.


  2. Could you sign this petition: change(dot)org/petitions/board-of-education-and-all-educational-facilities-and-municipalities-reform-education-so-that-it-s-fair-for-all-and-not-for-the-elite-few-or-the-dull-many-no-child-left-behind


  3. You lost me at “choice.” Choice schools in Wisconsin do NOT offer choices to parents of kids with IEPs–unless you’re willing to give up services and get teachers who don’t follow IEPs and don’t understand special ed. “Choice” is a false notion designed to get around fixing the schools that have to, by federal law, teach special ed kids. Charter schools SHOULD be accountable. And even when they cherry pick students, bypassing the hard-to-educate kids with, say, autism, they don’t do any better than districts who get stuck with high numbers of kids with IEPs. (Check Milwaukee Public Schools.) I’d agree with much here–I do think the “checking irises” is a bit over the top and unnecessary to make your argument. But let’s be honest about “choice.”


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