There Have Got to Be Better Ways of Fixing Education, Right?

First we have a California law that will punish parents for their truant children.

Now we have Detroit pushing to imprison parents if they miss a child’s parent-teacher conference. Not even kidding.

From The Detroit News:

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy is pushing for a law that calls for jail time for parents who skip parent-teacher conferences, a plan some call inspired and others consider the nanny state run amok.

Worthy pitched her plan Tuesday to the Detroit City Council and is shopping it to the Wayne County Commission and state Legislature. Drawing a link between parental involvement and youth crime, Worthy wants a sponsor to guide the idea to law.

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 e-mail, phone calls or letters.

“We have to find any means necessary to get parents involved,” Worthy told the council. “We have to start talking about prevention.

Just to be clear, this is just an idea that is being floated. There is no legislation yet.

Still, call me crazy, but this seems, well, crazy.  It is certainly true that we should be encouraging parents to become more involved in their children’s education, and finding ways to incentivize that involvement given all the other things parents are doing.  But this seems extreme and misguided.

It’s also blatantly discriminatory since it exempts “parents of those excelling in school.” What about parents who work two jobs and so have little time for these meetings?

And why three days in prison?  Who is going to take care of their children and, since engaging parents in the education of their children seems to be the goal, help their children with homework while they are in prison?

Clearly jurisdictions around the country are really trying to address the fact that more and more of our kids are falling behind.  But criminalizing parents is wrongheaded. Parents, particularly poor ones, probably already feel like they aren’t doing enough.  Parenting is often about dealing in the best way you know how with the feeling that you constantly fall short. Why exacerbate that feeling by criminalizing something like whether or not you attend a parent-teacher conference?

We should be making school the kind of place that children want to go to and figuring out how to make education relevant, particularly for children who come from poor underresourced, and often violent, communities.  And we should recognize that parents can be engaged in that work in a number of ways that are far more constructive than this proposal.

What do you guys think?  Is Detroit crazy for even proposing this?