Did my title grab you? Don't worry, it's not as bad as it sounds. That was simply my reaction when I heard about the complaints of some parents the other day. I have said before and I'll say again that most of the parents I've dealt with have been good, reasonable people, and they have been supportive of our school and their kids. But just as there are some incompetent teachers who give all of us a bad name, there are some idiotic parents who give all parents a bad name. If parents have to deal with an incompetent teacher or two, it probably becomes tough for them to remember that those good teachers exist. When teachers have to deal with idiotic parents, it becomes too easy to forget about all those good ones.
The parents who aroused my Irish temper did so by complaining that their high school aged kids would have to serve detention time for tardiness. If these parents had complained that our math program needs to improve, I wouldn't have liked it, but I could respect them as legitimately concerned parents. If they had complained that discipline in our school is too lax, I'd have agreed. There might even be some area where a parent could complain that our school is too rigid, but only a fool could complain that our tardiness or detention systems are too tough.
In our relatively small school we allow five minutes between passing bells. A former principal of ours used to bring a stop watch and take parents who had this complaint for a walk from one end of the building to the other, complete with a stop at a locker, and it always succeeded in ending any discussion about the matter. It never took close to five minutes. I know why students are tardy, and ninety percent of the time it happens because a boyfriend and girlfriend just can't stand to part from each other until the late bell rings.
Students in our school aren't given detention until they have hit their third tardy in the same class during one marking period. Since we have seven class hours and four marking periods, a student could be tardy 56 times during the year and never have to serve detention. Students are assigned a half-hour detention for a tardy, and they can serve it before or after school. In other words, our tardy and detention policies are embarrassingly lenient. Yet, these parents have the audacity to complain because their little darlings will have to serve detention. Aargh!
Parents like these do nothing but damage their own children. These kids know that whenever they have a conflict with a teacher or the principal that Mommy will jump to their defense. If they don't do the things they are supposed to do in school, they will have their advocate. Tell me, who gets hurt the most by that? To top it off, there is always the danger that some administrator will actually listen to a whining parent. As I've said before, schools do care what parents think. A few years ago we changed an absence policy that was having a positive effect because a parent with some clout went on a rampage because his daughters got warning letters. One could argue that our school has never been the same.
When I was in high school, I was not a great student, but I really believe I had great parents. The school and the teachers were right--period! It was my job to do what they wanted me to do, to the best of my ability. If I did something wrong and got into trouble, I should expect to suffer the consequences, whatever they might be, and make sure I didn't do it again. There were times as a student that I might have suffered minor injustices, but I would not have been foolish enough to complain to my parents about it.
I have to admit, however, that there are times when normally supportive parents should speak up rather than simply say, "Do what the teacher says!" The key is for parents to approach these situations with the presumption that the people in the school are competent and want to do the right thing. "Idiot parents" don't do this. Instead, they immediately assume that the teacher or the principal or whoever else from the school who is involved is wrong or lazy or acting out of ulterior motives. They think that instead of supporting teachers and the school, as my parents did, a good parent should serve as advocates for their kids whenever the students have conflicts with teachers or principals.
If this sounds like the old "teacher whining about parents" song, it really isn't. As I said earlier, most of the parents I've dealt with during my career have been pretty good, and that's still true today. And "idiot parents" should not just be a concern to teachers and administrators; they should be a concern to every good parent, as well. I think one of the biggest problems we have in public high schools today is poor discipline, and "idiot parents" contribute to that as much as anyone. It's a problem that will never be overcome unless good teachers and good parents work together to make it happen.