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Educational Systems, Parental Guidance and the Stress Levels of Black Children

At my job there are specific rules that may seem contradictory to norms that exist in society. A particular rule that I was once confused about relates to parent-child contact during youth development activities. We basically don’t allow parents in the room while we’re conducting their post-school day activities. In a world where everyone is scrambling to get the parents involved in their children’s education, why would any program decide to exclude parents from this process?

These activities include an in-depth one on one tutoring session which many of the children, youth development engagements, and artistic programming (which included a dance, guitar, culinary class, and a drum circle.) Furthermore, to understand the practice of not allowing parents in the programming area, you must contextualize the space in which the practice takes place. My job is located in a housing facility for communities impacted by HIV/Aids. Most of the clients have experienced stressed family systems surviving homelessness, poverty and healthcare issues. The children who are in the family many times experience the impact of this situation just as much as the parents. This policy also relates to the geography of the program– which is literally placed in the lower level of the housing unit in which the clients live.

Not allowing the parents into the room was designed for a couple reasons. First, it was designed to counteract any peripheral distractions that the students might experience. My supervisor argues “children are likely to perform for their parents while they’re in tutoring which is where distraction comes from.” The supervisor went on to say that parents find it challenging for other adults to groom their children, so they have a tendency to take over the learning process. Historically, the manner in which parents discipline their children is often contradictory to the practices and rules of the space, and different parenting styles created tensions. Ultimately creating a “no parent rule” leads to the creation of an intended dichotomy between the expectations set in the lower level (where educational programming happens) and the different rules set in the child’s home.

This policy is based on naturalistic inquiry and no actual scientific premise. There is no evidenced based research or practice that was tested to confirm that keeping parents outside of the programming space during post-school activities will create a more successful stress free program. However, there is more than 10 years of experiential knowledge that went into this decision. There were likely to be broader professional and organizational pressures that went into this “rule”. Funders are often brought to the facility and there might possibly be reasoning’s based around the peacefulness of the programming space that has both cultural and economic implications.

Regardless of the possible outside pressures of from the larger organizational context, I still agree with the practice of not allowing parents to come to the programming space during after school activities, at least in this context. In most situations it is obvious that we need parents involved and collaboration every step of the way. However, moderation is important, and once children are impacted negatively by anything or anyone, something must change. From my personal observation I agree with the assertion that children are many times not only distracted but also pressured by the their parents. This pressure can possibly be correlated to the added distress of the students. Usually (with a few exceptions) when programming is parent-free I have noticed that it goes smoother and the students are able to focus more.

Meaning parents are important, but they are not the beginning and end to a successful education system. It’s a bit funny to me how society (usually upper class) tries to blame poor education systems on parents. When everyone keeps ignoring the pertinent inequality that is built into the whole system. All I can say is Finland doesn’t have private schools; I wonder why all their public schools are doing so well?