President Obama’s Speech Forgets the Primary Educators

In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Obama once again urged parents to be active in supporting children to achieve in school. “Turn off the TV and do your homework,” he advised.

While this is a commendable recommendation, it doesn’t focus on the most important thing parents can contribute to their children’s education: their own knowledge.

We have come to believe so completely that the basic role of parents is to be a support for the teacher that we ignore the role of the child’s primary teacher, the parent. The “school-centric” belief that professional teachers and schools are the source of all valuable knowledge is so pervasive that most parents and neighborhoods have forsaken their own critical teaching roles.

The potential power of parents and villages as teachers is clearly demonstrated by the eye-opening research of Professor Luis Moll of the University of Arizona. He has studied the nature of the knowledge of Mexican-American parents in the Tucson area. He found those parents to have widespread knowledge in the fields of agriculture, mining, household management, business, construction, mechanics, medicine, healing and religion.

Just a few of the particular kinds of knowledge identified by Professor Moll include information about soil and irrigation systems, minerals, appraising, labor law, accounting, budgeting, carpentry, architectural design, airplane repair, anatomy, midwifery, herbal remedies and Bible studies.

Professor Moll calls this kind of information “Funds of Knowledge” of parents and local communitites.

So the next time President Obama speaks about education, he should urge local villages to organize themselves to share their “funds of knowledge” as they raise their neighborhood children.

Then, the schools can fill in the gaps.

~ John ~

About the Lead Author

John McKnight
John McKnight
John McKnight is emeritus professor of education and social policy and codirector of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute at DePaul University. He is the coauthor of Building Communities from the Inside Out and the author of The Careless Society. He has been a community organizer and serves on the boards of several national organizations that support neighborhood development.

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