Implement the Rhetoric of Parent Involvement!

Implement the Rhetoric” was the rallying cry of a group of parents – Citizen Action to Reform Education (CARE) – in the 70’s and 80’s in Vancouver BC (Canada). Tokenism, lip service, and symbolic use of parents were frustrating many parents. Below is a report I prepared in 1980.



Ten years ago when my daughter entered public school I fully intended to continue being actively involved with her education. Her early childhood years were enormously satisfying and edifying for me and I hope for her.

Our experience in a co-operative, parent participation pre-school was very rewarding. Parent participation was a requirement in the co-ops. Parents were involved at all levels – clean-up, policy, fund-raising, and staff evaluation and selection. Parents filled some of the personnel requirements of the school and attended evening classes to acquire the sets of skills desirable with respect to psychology of learning, philosophy of education and child development. 

I felt I did my part in this co-educational partnership and could see the mutual benefits for myself, my daughter and the school as a whole.

But, my good intentions to carry on this notion of education partnership were brought up short by the Kindergarten teacher. Visits to the classroom were not encouraged, and, never more than one parent at a time. No parents volunteered in the classroom, and communication was limited to twice yearly parent-teacher conferences. 

Plus, of course, voluminous pieces of art work which told me little.  

Teacher newsletters lacked warmth and even though the invitation was written down that parents were welcome to discuss concerns with the teacher at any time – this seemed hollow in view of the “tone”. 

Needless to say, I was deflated by the experience – and found my experience was similar to most other parents who had “graduated” from the co-op. From a “high” of being needed and part of the child’s education, the “low” of rejection was hard to take, much less comprehend. 

I, like a number of other enthusiastic parents, had, — in the thrall of early parenthood  —  taken all the “right courses”: pre-natal, post-natal, early childhood development. As well, we bought all the right books and educational toys. The joy of leaning together with my children (My daughters are now 14 and 12) was something I wanted to build on. 

The “hands off” attitude by the school was common, I found, even though today Kindergarten teachers are more attune to bringing parents along. What made me really confused and hurt was that the “hands off, leave it to the experts” approach did not square at all with the rhetoric of participation as espoused in early childhood courses.

I resolved there and then that this was something to be wrestled with. I’ve been wrestling with it ever since. *

Thereafter, in allying myself with other like-minded parents, “Implement the Rhetoric” became our rallying cry and created an instant bond between us. We knew exactly what that meant. Lip service to parent involvement is a frustration many parents have experienced and experience to this day.

I, even in those days, went so far as to complete a teaching degree in the event I might see the desirability of educating my children at home. This precaution, I found from my research, was not necessary as today there are parents educating their children at home without these paper qualifications. 

This report on the state of parent involvement, then,is not without subjective feelings. But, it is a report to the best of my ability, to convey the reality of parents and schools today – the good news and the bad news – based on an active involvement and study of the field for over ten years.

*[My note: I wrote that in 1980. Today, 27 years later, Nov 9/2007, and as a grandmother, I’m still wrestling with the plight of parents in our public school systems. I am producing this blog as a record of the past and a platform to continue current discussions on the topic.]


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