Have you ever missed a parent-teacher conference? Well, a prosecutor in Detroit wants you to go to jail. Sort of.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kim Worthy has proposed a plan that would send negligent parents to jail for missing too many parent teacher conferences.
Her plan would require parents to attend at least one conference per year or face three days in jail. Parents of those excelling in school would be exempt, as would those whose health issues make travel difficult and those “actively engaged” with teachers through email, phone calls or letters.
“We have to find any means necessary to get parents involved,” Worthy said. “We have to start talking about prevention.”
She’s shopping the plan around, speaking to the Detroit City Council, the Wayne County Commission, and the state legislature.
Before you go writing off Worthy as another crazy person, she doesn’t really think this bill has a chance at passing. I’ve got a better chance at becoming the Dalai Lama. She just wants to start a conversation.
“You can shoot the messenger,” Worthy said, “but I don’t care as long as the message gets out.”
We’re all about conversations here. In fact, it’s what we are, but Worthy might be a bit misguided—and not because she’s threatening parents with jail time. But are parents really the ones she needs to be targeting?
For underprivileged kids, our education system just isn’t working as it should. As Richard Corliss wrote in his Time review of Waiting for “Superman,” a documentary highlighting the problems with America’s education system:
With manufacturing jobs a sliver of what they once were, and field-level farming jobs largely stocked with immigrant labor, the coming generation of middle-class and working-class Americans needs not strong backs but educated minds. The titans and geniuses, the Warren Buffetts and Mark Zuckerbergs, will still propel themselves from privilege to power. What we need are people to work behind the counter at Southwest, to keep a million offices purring efficiently, to oil the machinery of civil service. A blue-collar economy is yesterday; a white-collar one is today and tomorrow.
We no longer have a top-level educational system. Among developed nations, Corliss says, we rank near the bottom in both reading and math scores. Finland and its world-class system are running laps around us.
Waiting for “Superman” says the blame isn’t that of the parents, but rather, the teachers:
Waiting for “Superman,” Davis Guggenheim’s edifying and heartbreaking new documentary, says that our future depends on good teachers—and that the coddling of bad teachers by their powerful unions virtually ensures mediocrity, at best, in both teachers and the students in their care.
The film follows five children, ultimately declaring that the fate of each one depended on winning a lottery—yes, an actual lottery—to land a spot in a charter school where they’d learn from adequate teachers.
We applaud Worthy for proposing something so seemingly absurd that it was bound to spark a discussion, but was it the right one? Or is Waiting for “Superman” looking in the wrong direction? It’s probably a mixture of the two, with both sides shouldering some blame. At the very least, Guggenheim and Worthy are making us think. And that’s always a good thing.