If you read the Oregonian Newspaper (and I’m certainly not suggesting that you do, though I often scan a copy with the somewhat guilty fascination of someone who just can’t help rubbernecking an auto collision on the freeway) you might have noticed the current bruhahah over President Obama’s “Race to the Top” initiative.

According to the “Race to the Top” website, here’s its program description:

“The Race to the Top Fund provides competitive grants to encourage and reward States that are creating the conditions for education innovation and reform; implementing ambitious plans in the four education reform areas described in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA); and achieving significant improvement in student outcomes, including making substantial gains in student achievement, closing achievement gaps, improving high school graduation rates, and ensuring that students are prepared for success in college and careers.”

Now, this post isn’t about the “Race to the Top” program, or its details. To be honest, I was too lazy to do more than scan the basic information I’ve included above, which sounds an awful lot like ol’ Auntie Nancy’s “No Child Left Behind” bedtime story to me.

No, what caught my attention, in the back-and-forth arguments listed in the Oregonian, wasn’t what the program included, but what both sides seemed to overlook.

In the editorials, I found the following statements:

“Race to the Top” is a 4.3 billion dollar program designed to test “new ways of teaching.”
“Through the Race to the Top fund, President Obama and Education Secretary Duncan have laid out their broad vision for reforming America’s education system: smarter use of data, innovative ways of evaluating educators and new strategies to turn around schools that consistently fail.”

“Oregon’s ‘Race to the Top’ design team is composed of individuals who have little, if any, regular interaction with the students the program is trying to reach…there must be representation from those in teacher education programs who are training the next generation of teachers.”

“While many teachers and principles do impressive work, Oregon’s overall results for kids in mediocre. Only 15% of Oregon’s high school sophomores will graduate from high school and complete college…”

“Oregon should provide needed support to new teachers and principles, make professional development meaningful, and base educator evaluations on multiple factors (not just principle visits and test scores.)”
“I have an idea for fixing the school system. Hang on to your seats because it has nothing to do with testing. Find a way to cut the class size in all grades in half.”

Do you know what I DIDN’T find…what three words I never found listed ONCE in all the articles and editorials printed? These three words:


Nowhere in Obama’s plan, or in the pros and cons debated by my fellow Oregonians, did I find a single mention of parents, or parental responsibility for the education of OUR children. Not even a hint of it!

It isn’t being debated…it isn’t even being considered. We, as parents, are left out of the argument entirely. And you know whose fault it is…OURS!

Have we really turned over OUR children’s futures to a bunch of strangers that we “hope” will do their best?

Have we really decided that because they are paid (and not enough, believe me) it’s THEIR job, and we are somehow absolved of any responsibility?

Have we really decided that it’s easier to “hope” that OUR children are in the 15%, than it is to take a proactive role in OUR children’s educations?

Have we really decided that it’s easier to just blame the teacher’s when OUR kids are rebellious morons, than it is to sit down at the dinner table (or take a walk to the woodshed) and make sure OUR kids are doing their homework, and learning the three R’s? To contact OUR children’s teachers and see how they’re doing in class?

Apparently, we have.

Shame on us.


When I was a surly, lazy fourth-grader with a smart mouth, my future educational success was set forth when my teacher called my dad at work (who, btw, didn’t piss and moan about the interruption.) My father who came home that night with a 24-inch, by 3-inch, by 1/2-inch piece of pine board (which his co-worker had gleefully machined in the company’s shop) and applied it to my butt; the first of many such applications that led me to my high school graduation.

I was lucky enough to have a teacher who cared enough about me to risk a phone call, a mother who would spend hours going over my homework assignments with me, and (perhaps most importantly) a father who was willing to be interrupted, and to take responsibility for my educational performance by warming my ass when necessary.

If  “warming my ass” seems harsh to you…please note that I fully credit that parental encouragement for placing me in that increasingly rare percentage that achieved my high school graduation and went on to college. I can only hope that I will be ready, and willing, to do the same when and if my own daughter needs encouragement. I’ll also make sure that I’m willing to turn off the football game, or The Simpsons, or the company cell-phone, and spend time with her as she does her homework.

What about you?

It would appear that the teachers, the schools, and the government have given up on us parents as a means of effecting change in the educational system, and insuring that OUR children are prepared to graduate high school, successfully navigate college, and lead successful lives. It would appear that they have accepted full responsibility for the educational success or failure of OUR children, and are groping blindly for a way to do so.

Maybe they are right.

If so, shame on us.

SHAME ON US.        

-Gracie’s Daddy