In a recent Washington Post article, Patrick Welsh, a high-school English teacher in Virginia, wrote about some disturbing trends he sees in his classroom.
Most of the kids at the Welsh’s school are African American, and many of them are doing very poorly in his class. In one moment of frustration, he asked his students, “Why don’t you guys study like [some other kids]?” One of the kids shot back, “It’s because they have fathers who … make them study.” Welsh then asked the class how many of them lived with their fathers, and not one hand went up.
Many community activists and school administrators talk about race as a big factor in educational performance, and others mention economic issues — and those are factors. But in this article, Welsh concluded that father-absence is a common root cause and may be the real issue that needs to be addressed. Read more.
There are many complex forces influencing a child’s academic performance, so this message may risk oversimplifying the issue.
One factor is that students are expected to have a certain amount of basic knowledge as they enter each level of their education. And kids with a difficult home life aren’t as likely to get those basics. So they’re always trying to catch up and they have a more difficult time performing at their potential.
That leads to the father factor. Dads tend to push their kids a little harder and hold them more accountable for their education. Many moms are very dedicated, and they tend to be more supportive and nurturing. The point is not that moms are failing, but that kids stand a better chance when both parents are involved. See research on dads and education.
So, dad, you’re an important part of your child’s education. And one of your roles is to challenge him and encourage him to do his very best in school. He may need that from you. But what about children in your community who don’t have a dad? How do they get their encouragement? This is where the WATCH D.O.G.S. (Dads Of Great Students) program serves a dual role. It allows dads to be in school to assist and promote their kids’ education, and it creates natural opportunities to encourage other kids. The National PTA has recognized this, and has included WATCH D.O.G.S. in its MORE Alliance.
- Ask about your child’s favorite and most difficult class. Share about yours when you were that age.
- Check in with your child every month or so to get some higher-level feedback on how he’s feeling about school in general, including friendships and other involvements.
- Volunteer for a day as a WatchDOG at your child’s school — or find out how to start the program there.
- Ask your child, “If there’s one thing I could do to help make your school experience better, what would it be?” Then see if you can address that issue.
- Identify an unfathered child and make a point to encourage him or her in educational pursuits.