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Common Core and more -- why don't parents get to have a say in their kids' education?

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Aug. 29, 2013: Students walk the halls during an open house for incoming freshman and transfer students at Kensington High School for the Creative and Performing Arts in Philadelphia.AP Photo/Matt Slocum

The unforgettable moment of parental bonding in the delivery room deceives many parents. After all, in today’s society, mothers and fathers are encouraged to be there for their children from first breath, cutting the umbilical cord, cheering at soccer matches, and helping in the doctor’s office, where many a queasy parent is asked to assist with something that can make a grown man go weak in the knees.

Most parents diligently work to raise up a generation of strong, confident, intelligent people, who know how to use the potty.

Which leaves many of us incredulous when it comes to the 1950s flashback – like expectant fathers in a hospital waiting room from an episode of “Mad Men” – that occurs when we start to engage in our children’s education, as “experts” in our modern day school system block us at the door to keep our parental cooties outside.

Why is it that when we start to engage in our children’s education, “experts” in our modern day school system block us at the door to keep our parental cooties outside?

Suddenly, parents should be seen and not heard, while we keep the checks coming.

My four children attend public schools in one of US News & World Reports top 50 tiers, after living in the Washington, D.C. area with some of the best of private and public school in the nation.  We’ve been exposed to what is said to be the best in the land in terms of schools.

Therefore it astounds me, and many parents I know, that in most conversations about how my own children's schools could improve, the overall response from those in charge is a patronizing pat on the head and assurances that “we’re from the government and we’re here to help you … now go away.”

With a “mine is better than yours” tone, educators too often flash their degrees (forgetting that many of us have a resume of our own).

Consider standardized testing today, which has been deified as the center of our educational system, no matter if children may need counseling later.

In my own childrens’ schools, huge signs are posted warning kids to "BE POSITIVE," "TAKE YOUR TIME," "REVIEW YOUR WORK"... as your future depends on it.

In response to complaints that too much class time was spent preparing for a test that only earns teacher bonuses and school dollars, our superintendent decided to incorporate this moment of time into kids’ overall grades.

So, now children in our school district, beginning in third grade can sit for the bar, as it were, to pass this colossal test to earn money for the nervous adults in the room. 

God help them if they suffer from test anxiety.

This ignores the reality that a good teacher might help failing kids reach “C” level work, or that a bad teacher can browbeat kids or perhaps cheat to raise kids’ test scores for the cash. A better system would be to let parents vote on who deserves a bonus.

The new Common Core educational standards seem meager at best, perhaps because so much educational class time is dust in the wind as my children watch movies, presentations and create "discussion trees" while contemplating the evils of bullying, only to be sent home with hours of homework.  

But to call and ask about the time management of the classroom is to put your children in danger of retaliation by a blustering teacher who has essentially transferred the work of educating your child back to you.

In my children's school it seems crafts supersede contemplation. Book reports are rare, while my children create presentations of items collected that reminded them of books in a can or a box, through a costume, a poster or in a power point.

I’m afraid that this generation may not know that it is possible to write more words than can fit into a text.

Modern educators also seem held hostage to national standard of disputable value, ignoring real complexities – like differing opinions on WHY wars began or ended – to teach THE answer to life’s toughest questions for the test.

Some classes, like world history, require gray areas.

And then there is math, where my children have learned that if you get the right answer using your own methods you are wrong.

Really?

If you look at Facebook you can understand the battle so many parents find themselves in when it comes to teachers who need a different profession. A friend of mine excitedly posted that she had avoided all the dud teachers this year. Immediately a world of parents sent out a sympathetic “LIKE.”

Why is it that being bad at your job is not enough to get you fired as a teacher? While the rest of us must produce value for our employers – or else – being bad at your job with questionable moral judgment isn’t even a speed bump. But it’s the children who get run over.

It would be one thing if all this “expert” control meant better test scores and higher academic achievement. 

It doesn’t. 

To truly reform schools, empower parents who both pick up the tab for their local schools and pick up the pieces in their children’s lives when schools fail.

Kristi Stone Hamrick is a media consultant and active cupcake baker for all school functions. Follow her on Twitter@KristiSHamrick.