Honolulu Lite


Flunking parents
won’t always make
better students

Hawaii public school students don't do great on tests, which clearly is the fault of the school board, teachers, principals, janitors, shave ice dealers, the impending war with Iraq, the stock market, El Niño and, oh yeah, the kids' parents.

That's the cool thing. When students do poorly in school, it's never their fault. There's so much blame to go around, and none of it seems to land anywhere near the student's desk. If they do bad in national standardized tests, it's because the tests are flawed. If they do poorly in school, it's because the principals are members of a union. If they misbehave in class, it's because the teachers are not adequately trained. If they don't eat all of their lunch, it's because school kitchens prepare the wrong foods. If they don't do their homework, it's because they have Multimedia Attention Disorder, which makes it impossible to watch "The Simpsons" on TV, play "The Sims" on the laptop, listen to Eminem on the CD player and learn the math tables from a whatchamacallit. Oh yeah, a book.

It's always somebody else's fault when a kid does badly in school, and the current somebody else whose fault it is, is the parent.

Some schools on the mainland are actually sending parents report cards that grade the parents, not the children. This is just so cute. But it raises the question: Is it OK for parents to sign their own report cards, or do the grandparents have to do it?

BLAMING THE PARENTS for their kids not learning anything is great circular thinking. The parents work every day to pay taxes. The taxes are used to build schools and hire teachers. The kids go to school to learn, but when they do poorly, it comes back around to the parents.

Hawaii legislators are considering making parents of students who miss school pay fines and worse. The parent of a frequently absent student could be forced to pay $900 in fines and do community service. That's pretty harsh considering that, in Hawaii, community service is usually reserved for those convicted of homicide.

Why stop at fines and community service when punishing parents for the felony offense of failing to keep their kid in school? How about the lash? Your kid misses three days of school in a row, you get 50 lashes from a Board of Education member of your choice. (Hint: Don't pick Lex Brodie. He may be a seasoned citizen, but all that surfing has made him strong as an ox.)

Hot coals on the bottom of one's feet is an awfully good motivator. And the rack was always an excellent way to stretch someone to your way of thinking. If I was going to be stretched on a rack if my kid didn't go to school, I'd handcuff myself to the lad and then both of us to the teacher.

Here's a zany idea: How about holding students responsible for their success in school? Just a little. If the Legislature wants to do something for today's youth, change the law to make it legal for kids to work full time at age 13. Then, if they cut out from school three times in a row, don't let them come back. Instead, counsel them in the way suggested by social commentator P.J. O'Rourke: You gently tell them, "Pull your pants up, turn your hat around and get a job."

Charles Memminger, winner of National Society of Newspaper Columnists awards, appears Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. E-mail

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