Dear Margo: Self-Involvement to the Max

Margo Howard’s advice

Self-Involvement to the Max

Dear Margo: I am a married woman with high school- and college-age children. My younger sister, “Joanne,” and I are very different. She has not always made the best choices and is now divorced with a young son. I am happily married, and according to her, I am just lucky. We have worked hard, and yes, sometimes luck is involved, but hard work pays off.

She also feels that our mother favors me. I cannot figure out where that is coming from, and neither can my mother. She has been able to be there for Joanne’s son now that she is retired — something she was not able to do when my children were young, and that’s fine; I don’t keep score.

I love my sister, but we are not close, and this is mainly due to the fact that for as long as I can remember our relationship has been one-sided. She calls; she talks; I listen. There is never a reciprocal “How’s work? How are the kids? How was your weekend?” When we are with a large group, people leave the conversation when she talks about her problems and her son nonstop. This has been going on for 20-plus years, and quite frankly, I’m exhausted. I find myself emailing rather than calling so I don’t have to listen to the constant complaining.

I know I should talk to her about this, but she is so defensive that I can’t face it. She was given medication, but I’m sure she’s not taking it anymore. Do you think I should send her a letter to explain why we don’t talk on the phone much anymore? — Confused Sister

Dear Con: My father used to say, “The harder I work the luckier I am,” so I’m with you about the luck factor. What is clear is that your sister’s life has not worked out well, and she’s clearly self-involved and needy. I don’t know whether it will solve the problem or change your sister’s behavior, but go ahead and write a letter. Say that you don’t mind offering advice or even listening, but you cannot plough the same field over and over again. And perhaps suggest that taking her meds might make life a little easier. The result may be silence, but honestly, would that be so bad? — Margo, pragmatically

An Ongoing National Problem

Dear Margo: I am a teacher with many Asian students. They consider themselves as having “dishonored the family” if they don’t do well in school, and I think this may be one reason why many Asian students do so well academically.

Our American culture puts greater value on “pursuit of happiness,” which often does not include “completion of homework,” which may be the reason many students fail. It is heartbreaking to know that a great many students are heading toward a mediocre future, and it doesn’t have to be that way.

Why can we not, as a country, get on top of our education system? I know this is not a personal problem, and there may in fact be no answer, but I write on the off chance you might have some ideas or perhaps know of efforts in this direction. — Just a Teacher

Dear Just: I suspect that a few more years of the U.S. ranking below Slovenia in math and science will produce much-needed changes and more money being appropriated. Teachers are not well paid, and many inner city classrooms feel like bedlam. When enough people, such as parents and legislators, decide our future is literally tied to the education of our children, then perhaps people will get serious about regaining our place in the world by making education a top priority. — Margo, hopefully

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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


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36 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    LW#1:  I disagree with Margo, in part.  It doesn’t appear from your letter that your sister is wondering why you don’t talk on the phone  much anymore and that is probably because she is so self-involved it doesn’t occur to her to think about you that much unless she needs you.  So, unless she asks, I wouldn’t send the letter.  I would simply keep on as you have been doing for so long.  She won’t change at this late date and so why throw gasoline onto the coals and give her another reason to pity herself because *you don’t understand me*…*you were mean to me*? Its sad that you cannot have a close relationship but it is what it is.   By the way…I love Margo’s quote from her father.  He was truly a self-made man.   As for your sister’s medication…is there a medicine to cure selfish? 

    • avatar bright eyes says:

      Katharine, I agree. I have a sister much like this. Calls are filled with comments about her kids, what they’re all up to, etc. Or ranting over some issue. A question may be asked every now and then, but that leads back into something about her family. In this case, I know she thinks she did everything right and I did not, so I don’t bother trying to involve her much – of course this is after years of the same treatment. We have vastly different kids and she doesn’t place the same value on music as she does sports, so feels her kids are more important than mine.
      I’I’ll stop calling and won’t hear from her unless she needs someone to talk at. I just accepted that things would never change and am shocked when she does something that a normal aunt would do.

  2. avatar Sita says:

    Dear teacher: I am of Asian decent. Early on in my life my parents always stressd out to me that if I do well in school and have good education I will go far in this world. They used to point at a homeless person and said that he/she didn’t do well at school. I am lucky because doing well in school was a piece of cake, but not my brother. He hated school and my parents were quite hard on him. He is a successful accountant now because my parents kept at him like you’ve never seen an American parent do. In turn, my daughter is now in middle school STEM program (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) I have told her that I don’t like grades below 90% and if I see that she’s slacking off I take away some previledges. She is currently having problems in her art class due to some disruptive, disrespectful and sometimes violent students. She felt so bad when she told me that the worst offenders are mostly African American students. She felt like a racist for merely suggesting that and I’m sure the school feels the same. So when some students get in trouble and the principal is called to diffuse the situation everybody has to apologize to the teacher regardless of guilt. The parents of those students drop the balls in teaching them good behavior and dicipline. The school’s hands are tied because of so many regulations so teachers can’t teach. This combination with lousy parenting and too much regulation is what cause the decline in our education system. It is hard for me to keep my head above water just to teach my daughter what’s right and what’s wrong because of the bad behaviour my daughter witness in school every day. In another middle school in the area a girl was caught giving some boys oral sex under the table during lunch, so now the school separates boys and girls lunch time. It is really sad to see the declines.

    • avatar Patti Spencer says:

      Sita – I totally agree – kids today are way out of control! I have a friend who is a special education teacher – has been since the mid 90’s – she has seen the decline in discipline in the classroom due to new regulations. She has also pointed out that it is mostly the lowest income families who are doing this. She has also seen an increase of the number of students in her group – she has noted that most of them would be able to function “normally” if they would just take their medication, have some real discipline at home, the teachers would be able to actually discipline their kids instead of saying or doing nothing to the kids.
      I to am a teacher and have noticed a big difference in the way kids act and behave. Back when I was in school, if I ever back talked a teacher, I would be in deep trouble both at school and at home! Kids today have no respect for their teachers or themselves. Home life for a lot of kids today is almost non-existent for a lot of different reasons. The one thing that I have noticed is that kids who are from immigrant families and are first or at the most second generation here in the USA are the most well behaved! For the families who are engaged with their kids it goes back to the 80’s when parents started hovering over their kids and those kids are now parents, they want their kids to be treated like royalty and they can do no wrong!

    • avatar Ghostwheel says:

      I take exception to the statement “like you’ve never seen an American parent do”. Unless you have seen every American parent to compare to your mother, that statement has no basis. I, for one, can tell you I have a son with dyslexia and dysgraphia and he does not get by with using that (or anything else)  as an excuse to do poorly in school. Our mantra is “Don’t shortchange yourself.”  He gets straight “A”s, but he has to work very hard for them.

      BTW, I have seen many students of all descents (Asian included), whose parents do not teach proper discipline. The hard part for the parents who DO teach proper discipline is that the children see that the rules don’t apply the same to everyone in the school. The teacher asks everyone to quiet down, some kids don’t and still get recess. Kids begin to wonder why they should behave if others don’t. 6 + hours a day they are exposed to that. If you factor in the 2 hours of homework they have to do each night, I have them for less waking hours than that. The classrooms that do well are the ones with CONSISTENT rules, and if a rule is broken, consequences entail. PERIOD. Just like it should be at home.

      Teachers blame parents, parents blame teachers, and the kids lose out.  

    • avatar Anais P says:

      Well, you’ve never seen THIS American mom get after all of her children when it came to school. What the country needs to do is foster the idea that education LEADS TO SUCCESS. This idea that sneering at “the elite” or “smart people” is cool and that there are shortcuts to success like getting on a reality show or winning the lottery or dealing drugs must be erased. Immigrants knew that making sure their children were working hard in school meant a better life for their children; we need to foster that idea with all parents, especially those in the inner city and poor rural areas.

    • avatar bright eyes says:

      I agree, kids are going to learn by example. I’ve had many problems with my son’s schools. Last year it was so bad that they couldn’t have mass amounts of toilet paper because kids clogged up the toilets with toilet paper and paper towels. They had to be escorted from one class to another by the teacher because they couldn’t ensure they would get to their classes without problems. These are middle school students!
      And there was an issue of a fight at the bus stop. A girl wanted to beat up another girl, so the first girl called her parents (they were cheering her on) and the other girl called her parents as well (to protect her). So my son gets to see this big group of parents fighting over the kids fighting! The parting shot was one parent yelling at the girl that if she didn’t do what the girl wanted her to, then she’d beat her butt tomorrow! While this is going on, I’m trying to teach my child that fighting is not acceptable. I asked the principal – How do I explain this to my child? I have a no fighting policy, but these parents are joining in! Of course, she had no answers for me. And nothing was done to any of the participants – it wasn’t on school property, so there was nothing the school could do.
      And I do have high standards for my son. Why? Because I know he’s smart. He can’t get anything less than an A (in Pre-AP classes). If he does, it’s because he wasn’t doing the work, not because he doesn’t understand it. I do give him leeway with the subject I know he has problems with, but at this point, he’s beginning to be harder on himself than I am. But I also believe in having the well rounded student.
      My focus is on school as a means to get to college paid for. We do many other things rather than focus on school 24/7. I know I push him,but I also know that kids need downtime and you have to adjust for each child. But I have had to explain to him that not all parents have the same expectations for their children and not everyone pushes their kids as much as I do.

    • avatar persey78 says:

      I also have an LD student who ended her SPED services 2 years ago. Why? Because I told her the LD is doable and I expect greatness from her. I have the same LD, and I know I would have done better if I had gotten the help she did. I learned how to get around it on my own so it was late middle school or high school before I started to get things and by that time I thought it was too late. I push my child and she has a lot of luxuries but she has earned them, and she knows that any drop in grades, or inappropriate behavior at home or in class will result in these privileges being taken away.
      She also did this on her own. She begged to be taken out of SPED classes and I told her only she can do that and that would be with hard work. In 3rd grade she started trying, then in 4th grade she ramped it up. In 5th grade she was on fire. It was her, not me. She worked her butt of to learn the skills she needed to be now in honors classes with teachers and students that love her.
      And that is what is most important to me. My daughter is a very good person, not just because I force her, but because she wants to be. She is the defender of the weak and the friend to all. She is a good quiet student who is funny at the right times (I am very talkative and I told her about my struggles and how I wish I had controlled that earlier so she knows the right time and place to be crazy and fun) who also gets great grades.
      I separate those because I know some really annoying students who got great grades. I didn’t want my daughter to have the social skills of Shelton (Big Bang Theory) just to be a good student. Many Asian parents I know failed in that, in that their children are unable to relate to deal with their classmates and then co workers. You then fail as a parent if your child can not have compassion for other students living situation.

  3. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: She’s punishing you and others because of her own troubles (even if not her fault) and failings (her fault). It also seems she’s flat-out jealous. If you don’t write the letter, at least *verbally* put the brakes on with her. Tell her (phone) “We’ve discussed this before. You’ve got your life, I’ve got mine.” Reiterate that. Maybe don’t even answer the phone. She’s taken you and your mother “psychic hostage.” You either enable it or (try to at least) end it.

    L #2: I think some of the problems with American academics (and aspects of life in general) is the media- and corporate brainwashing message of “You deserve it…you deserve it…you deserve it” (a new car, a fancy home, 150K/year salary).

    No one *deserves* success. You work for it, period. I see so many people with a ridiculous sense of entitlement; as if “it” SHOULD come their way by virtue of being alive and born American.

    • avatar Lila says:

      Cindy, THANK YOU. “Deserves” implies something earned through merit or effort.

      This is a huge problem with the Millennial generation – many employers actually prefer older workers now after dealing with what they see as entitled, insecure, clingy kids in their workspaces. Yes, it’s an over-generalization, but… I have seen it myself.

      And it’s not just young employees. A friend who was in command at the time had a soldier who was drowning in debt. Among other things, she advised him to return his brand-new living room set to the PX so he could eliminate that payment from his budget. He did so. OMG! Then the soldier’s wife burst into the commander’s office demanding to know who she thought she was, and “I DESERVE to have nice things!!” My friend just looked her straight in the eye and said, “No. You have to pay for nice things. And you don’t have the money.” Probably the first time she had ever been told NO by anybody.

  4. avatar ann penn says:

    I have tutored adults for GED math at a local shelter for homeless families with children. One young man I worked with had gone to inner city NY schools until about 8th grade. I was shocked to realize that he did not know that the “ones” go on the far right, then the “tens”, “hundreds” etc. I was able to at least teach him that much so he could do simple arithmetic, understand how to make change, etc. I would have worked with him further, but his family moved away.

    The current environment of promoting everyone to the next grade is a factor in poor education, IMO. IF this young man’s teachers had any idea of the basic level of his deficiencies in understanding the work, such promotion is criminal, IMO.

    However, I also know how overworked many teachers are in this day and age. If class sizes are large, there is more opportunity for underachievers to fall through the proverbial cracks.

    • avatar Donna Sampson says:

      ann penn….teachers suggest every year to hold certain students back because they have not mastered the necessary skills, but administration is pushed by the state dept NOT to hold any back. It’s been found that students, who are older than their peers, once they reach a certain age have a tremendously larger chance of dropping out. What most people don’t realize is that teachers are in no way the boss of the classroom, but merely the puppet whose strings are pulled by parents, administration, state dept of ed, media, and general pubilc.

  5. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Letter #1 –  I believe it is NEVER too late for anyone to change. But….you have to want to change.

    And the truth is a lot of people like this that are self obsessed, may not want to change because they don’t see any flaws in their behavior. A million people could line up and one by one point out the same flaws in her personality and she would simply repeat over and over to herself  “I just don’t see that in myself” 

    I have walked away from people without telling them why I did so, and I regret it. Whether this letter writer does it in person or in writing, I think she should convey her feelings. More so for her own peace of mind. If change comes from it…..all the better. But if she reads the letter and nothing comes of it, at least the letter writer will know she tried.

    Letter #2 – There is a happy medium to almost everything. To be so involved in education to the point one excludes all the other aspects of life that brings us joy, isn’t healthy.  So I applaud Asians that do immerse themselves in learning, but can not relate or applaud those that take that to the nth degree.

    I think the question of why Americans can’t get on top of our education system is rooted in the fact that few people see it as important. There are good teachers that are themselves educated and inspired to teach and learn. But a vast number of so called “teachers” can’t say the same. Our kids are essentially being baby-sat and given busy work while men and women sit in class and do nothing but watch the clock. And to be fair, children show up to schools with needs that most children did not decades ago. Today many kids don’t show up to work freshly showered, clean, full from a healthy breakfast at home and a mind at peace ready to learn. Unfortuantely many show up stressed out because of issues at home (if they even have a home) hungry, dirty and depressed. And we tell our teachers, ignore all of that, just teach them.


    There are teachers that are uneducated in place to educate students. That is a problem. We constantly hear complaints about schools not having appropriate supplies and books, when in my opinion that may be true, but what schools are missing far more than up to date books are teachers that are skilled. Yet they are protected by unions and essentially untouchable. 

    Again to be clear, there are many devoted, educated and smart men and women teaching children, but they are outnumbered by those that are not worthy of holding their chalk.          

    • avatar Eventergirl says:

      I completely disagree. Are there bad educators out there? Yes. Do they outnumber the good teachers? No. What is happening is teachers aren’t expected to be teachers anymore. We’re expected to be teachers, counselors, baby sitters, moms/dads, confidants, psychologists, the list goes on and on and on. The AMOUNT of education that is now being required for teachers to try and teach to their students is exponentially greater than it was 50 years ago. Many topics that were originally supposed to be taught in the home are now being forced on teachers in the schools: personal hygiene, sex education, morals, behavior. We’re not given longer days to teach more information, or more staff, or more money. I still only get 180 days a year, and less than 8 hours a day.

      On top of that, we as a society have put such an emphasis on “self esteem” that we can no longer penalize kids for fear of “hurting their feelings”. I literally had 2 students that missed over 100 days of school in a single school year (yes, folks, the school year is only 180 days long). Do you think those students failed their Senior year and had to repeat? Nope! They walked and got a degree. I was hounded for the last 3 months of school for “anything I could do to help little Jimmy pass my class” – yes, he can show up and do his work. He didn’t show up, didn’t do the work I gave them so he could do it during his “seat time” (which is the dumbest policy IMO), my grades were overridden, and he got a HS diploma.

      I’ve had homeless students, hungry students, pregnant students, students who were the victims of rape, abuse, and incest. But I still have to teach them. No matter what baggage they carry through my door. And I teach over 150 of them every single day. So I dare you to go up to ANY teacher and lay the current state of the American education system at their feet and say it’s because they’re “not worthy of holding their chalk.”

      • avatar Kate C says:

        Thank you for the clarity, Eventergirl.

        Belinda Joy, there is no doubt that in any profession you have your share of good and bad apples. But imagine managing a classroom of 30 or more students in which you might face the following:

        10 students who don’t speak English
        15 students with behavioral/emotional/developmental problems that cannot be controlled, for which there are no aides available to assist, and as a consequence of a fearful administration, you cannot discipline or even send to the principal’s office
        5 students who may actually want to learn

        That is assuming that A) the kids show up to class and B) there are sufficient basic supplies such as textbooks, paper and enough desks to go around.

        I truly wish this was a hypothetical situation I was presenting, but my girlfriend teaches in a high school in NYC, and this is the kind of environment she enters every day.

        The administration’s tactic is to throw all of these children at all different skill levels into the same classroom so that the “good” students will elevate the “bad” students. If one of her miscreants deigns to verbally abuse her, or even hit her, she has been told to ignore it. One of the children snuck up to her desk and stole papers while she was managing a behavioral problem in the back of the classroom, stood on a chair and waved them over his head — she got up on a chair, reached for the papers and instead grabbed his arm, literally letting go in the next instant because she knows, as do all of her students, that she is not to make physical contact with ANY of them. She has been threatened by students who tell her they will “take her job.”

        Meanwhile, the union, which is supposed to hold the administration to contractual obligations (like no more than 32 students in one class, no more than 3 separate classrooms for a single teacher per day, no more than 3 separate preps per semester) has made itself willfully unavailable to its current members and spends their dues on supporting retired teacher pensions (upwards of $75K/yr).

        While I don’t disagree that unions are in need of a serious overhaul, do not make the mistake of thinking they are protecting the interests of their members. And do make the mistake of thinking these school administrations have the learning of children in their sights.

        The problem is that the school system structure which has historically been in place has not adjusted adequately to suit the needs of a changing population. There is no easy fix. Currently, the federal gov’t has it rigged so that you receive funding if the test scores are adequate. How are the schools handling this? By passing kids who should never be passed and turning in falsified records.

        Too bad it’s not just NYC where this is happening.

      • avatar Davina Wolf says:

        Excellent comments, Belinda Joy.  


    • avatar R Scott says:

      “…there are many devoted, educated and smart men and women teaching children, but they are outnumbered by those that are not worthy of holding their chalk.”  I strongly disagree and am sorry you’ve not had good educational experiences.  It’s been my experience that the vast majority of teaches are hard working, dedicated people.     

    • avatar Donna Sampson says:

      Belinda…I beg to differ with you. As with ANY profession, there are underskilled employed, but teachers get a bad rap from the general public and media because they are not actually in the system working each day. I am a teacher and I feel that unions try to protect teachers from that bad rap. It certainly isn’t as if teachers are in the very highly paid category of jobs! We don’t get lucrative contract nor do we get over the top benefits. Before you bash teachers and teacher unions too much, why don’t you try to work IN the school and see exactly what goes on and WHY it goes on. Teachers’ hands are tied as to what and how to teach and yet teachers get the blame if it’s wrong.

    • avatar bright eyes says:

      Have you heard about the tax line on the 1040 form for teachers? So many teachers were purchasing their own supplies – that they have their own tax line! (No, I don’t know how much it is – I just know it’s there.) Judging by the fact that SO many teachers pay for their own supplies, they have a tax line – I know there are plenty of dedicated teachers out there.
      Yes there are some that just push kids through. Yes there are teachers who show up, give busy work and collect a paycheck then go home. But I think it’s the case of one bad apple spoiling the bunch. I have never met a more dedicated set of teachers than the ones I have encountered in my son’s 9 years of school – unless it was the teachers that educated me. They’re willing to stay late, come in early and help the students with whatever they need help with.
      Are we in a big city? No. Are we in a poor neighborhood? Yes. Do the kids cause problems? Yes. Are the teachers limited by what they can do and say – Yes!
      I have the utmost respect for anyone who chooses teaching as a profession. They spend a lot of their own personal time and money working on lesson plans for the students or thinking up things to keep the kids interested in the subject at hand. And yes they are terribly limited by the budget and having the tools they need accessible to them.

  6. avatar luna2012 says:

    I’m Asian. I think the American educational system needs serious overhaul – from kindergarten to graduate school. I think it is shameful we are doing so poorly as a developed nation.

    However, I do not advocate the Asian mentality on education. If the good, ole USA is on one side, then Asia is waaay over on the other side. It is taking education to a whole different level. It is important for children to learn, to study, and to do as well as they can in school. It is important to instill the values that come from studying and working hard in school, and to discover the joy of learning. It is not important to ram it down their throats, and threaten unknown harm in the future or dishonor on family if you cannot make straight A’s and do not make it into a Ivy League college.

    My parents pushed me, and I am grateful for some level of pushing. I am not grateful for the lack of sleep, constant pressure, yelling and screaming about dishonor and a horrible future if I didn’t get into a top school, absolutely no words of encouragement because I “could do better”, and a complete lack of self esteem. As an adult, I am realizing there was a wealth of opportunities and choices available to me, and I did not need to knock myself like I did to succeed.

    The Asian way is far from perfect. Let’s not idealize it.

    • avatar K Coldiron says:

      Thank you so much for the touch of sanity. I am so, so glad to read this.

      • avatar D C says:

        And now for your touch of levity:  Did you hear the one about the Asian couple that took their obstatrician to court because he said the mother would need a C-section?  They wanted an A-section because B’s and C’s are not allowed.  (drum rim shot)

        Thank you… I’ll be here all week!

        • avatar Hellster says:

          DC– Love it!

          The American school system sucks because it’s full of Americans. The fact that the presidential race is still close indicates to me that approximately 50% of the country lacks critical-thinking skills. I leave it to you to decide which 50%.

  7. avatar Chris Glass` says:

    Letter 1 – This woman realizes that she has a better life because she worked for it and states that her younger sister didn’t always make good choices and is now divorced with a young child. Her sister does not need a critical letter at this time it would come across as judgmental and high handed. The younger sibling could be struggling to pay bills as she reorganizes her life. This is not a time for moral superiority it could push her over the edge.

    Letter 2 – Parents are the problem not the students – Too many expect the schools to do everything from potty training (yes there are kids in kindergarten and first grade in pull ups) to teaching kids manners as well as educate them with no parental support. The only way a child gets an education is if the parents and teachers work as a team. School is preparation for adulthood it is not a babysitting service. Parents have to back the teachers to see that assignments are completed and turned in. Sometimes they have to be unpopular by taking away privileges until their student is up to par.

    • avatar Lila says:

      Chris, taking away privileges… EXACTLY. Too few parents are willing to do it. But take away cell phones, iPods, Facebook time, remove electronic media from the kid’s room and make him sit supervised at the computer in the kitchen – they will behave to get back the things they really like.

      As for the toilet training thing…. ugh. There was a story on that a couple of years ago, which mentioned a five-yr-old boy still in diapers. After his first day of school, he announced to his parents that he was done with diapers and that was indeed the end of it. The reason? The other kids had mocked him as a “baby.” I am very anti-bullying but sometimes, some well-placed embarrassment will work wonders.

  8. avatar Lila says:

    Ugh. The education “system.” The comments here have it right: the problem is a combination of crappy parenting (whether uninvolved, helicopter, or always ready to leap to a little hellion’s defense), and a shift in culture that over-emphasizes entitlement and fake “self-esteem.”

    Toss in the fact that ever-growing percentages of the kids are diagnosed with “autism spectrum disorder” or “ADHD.” I am certain that these disorders are real but am also convinced they are very, very over-diagnosed. There were plenty of little hellions in my childhood years, too, but in those days, teachers could use embarrassment, could rap hands with rulers (my brother got that treatment), and could physically haul a kid out of the room if necessary. It was effective. I don’t recall a lot of repeat meltdowns. Now even parents are chastised for this kind of thing… no slaps, no spankings, no harsh words… so, hey, what’s left but medication? Or… the cops.

    There was a story a while back about a 6-yr-old getting handcuffed and arrested at school. Oh, the horror, what an over-reaction, right? But she was hitting, breaking things, threw a chair at a teacher – and the teachers are not allowed to touch her or restrain her?? So what’s left? Sometimes it’s not enough to say, “Now Susie, that’s not nice.” Adults have lost all means of asserting power over youngsters, so is it a surprise that the youngsters are the ones in charge?

    How can we expect teachers to maintain standards and discipline in this environment? And it’s no wonder we have a hard time attracting and keeping professionals.

    • avatar Donna Sampson says:

      **clap, clap, clap*** I totally agree with you!!!!  The lack of the ability to discipline is ruining our society. Just wait until these kids are adults! What will our world look like?

  9. avatar martina says:

    LW2 – Pennsylvania cut their school funding by over a billion dollars.  So, the schools started cutting down their faculties to meet budgets. Then, standardized test scores dropped and the State blamed the teachers . There have been so many teacher cuts because the school districts can only put so much more financial responsibility onto the taxpayer.  I already pay close to $10,000 in school taxes a year.  We need to find a way to better fund our schools and teachers but to put less burden on the property owner.  I will have to move when I retire because I will not be able to afford to continue to live in my home. 

  10. avatar AOT says:

    Slovenia rocks!

  11. avatar Jennifer Bowen says:

    LW2:  It doesn’t help that in our litigous society that when a child fails, the first thing parents want to do is blame and sue the school.  It’s never the child’s fault or the parent’s fault.  Always the school.  Until that changes our education is stuck.

  12. avatar dbrazil says:

    With regards to the teacher’s letter…when parents decide that an education is more important than the football game, or cheer practice, or any one of a number of activities that children participate in, then, perhaps, will homework be turned in, chapters read, and sleeping will be eliminated in class.  As a teacher, I frequently hear “I couldn’t do my homework because cheer practice ran until 10:00 last night.” When the parents get behind the teachers, then children will improve.  

    A Social Studies Teacher   

  13. avatar Lisa M says:

    Thank you for saying that about education. My son goes to a “good” public school that has no library, music , the kids only have 30 minutes of recess and PE once-a-week and there are 30 4th graders in a classroom with one teacher (they don’t even all fit on the rug at morning meeting and have to take turns sitting in chairs). The only good thing about public schools are the teachers. Politicians continue to cut education funding, use teachers for target practice and force schools to teach kids to take tests instead of educate them. It’s time for more public figures like Margo to speak up. Children can’t vote and the way public education is going they won’t be able to read the ballots when they are of age.

  14. avatar sdpooh says:

    LW#2 — Oh boy, a teacher I can finally talk to.  You are not at your desk, making me sit in the little kids chair or the high school desk.  So here goes.  You are paid to teach.  I am the mom.  I take care of all the non-school stuff.  My son is grown now, but this has been on my mind for YEARS.  When he was a child, he got 20 minutes per night, per subject minimum homework.  7 subjects equals 2.33 hours a night on average.  I worked all day and then made supper.  We were done with dinner and such around 7 pm.  The homework then began, until about 930 at night.  BTW, he was 7-10 years old.  Do you see us having a family life back then?  Sometimes I wrote notes stating that we had family obligations that night, so no homework.  The teacher did not like that.  My parents always told me school was my “job”.  So, when I asked the teacher if it was right for my boss to send home 2 1/2 hours of business work each night, was that fair, she had no answer.  I ask you now.  What makes you think I should teach the child at night if you won’t during the day.  I understand why so many people homeschool now.  I wish I could have stayed home and homeschooled, but as a single mom, I had to work.   So, I tried to be the teacher at night and the teacher got paid for assigning homework during the day.   

    • avatar bright eyes says:

      sdpooh I think it’s a combination of parents and teachers working together to educate the child. My son had to take a lifestyle class – they taught him easy cooking, balancing a check book, things like that. Things that I’m responsible for teaching him but they realize not a lot of people are teaching their kids so they made a class out of it. I didn’t mind him taking the class, he already knows how to cook, so it just gave him new things to cook.
      My son’s a freshman this year and he has more homework than he’s ever had, but it’s not every night. I don’t always need to help him, just be around in case he needs it. I know what he’s studying and can put it into terms that he can understand easier than his teachers can. His teachers would never think to use some of the examples I do, but you can bet those are the ones that stick in his mind.
      I’m also a single mother and yes I am able to have a life around his homework. In fact, we’re busy almost every night. He hasn’t had to miss out on anything just because he has homework, he works around it. He can either do homework right after school or while getting ready for dinner. He does homework while I make dinner. If he has questions, he asks. Then it’s more homework after dinner. Yes he can be working until 9:30 at night, but that’s only if we end up getting home late.
      Why does he have homework? Because his school day is from 7:45 to 2:50 which means he has roughly 50 minutes per class. Some of that time is spent going over the last nights home work and some is spent learning new things. I feel that homework is the child’s way of trying it on their own – if they don’t understand it, they can ask the teacher the next day. You can understand something perfectly when the teacher is standing right there helping, but the true test is if you can do it on your own. And I’d prefer him to figure that out before he gets real test in class.

    • avatar Donna Sampson says:

      sdpooh…a child needs to practice at home to ensure the child fully understands a concept. If it takes that much time to finish the homework then maybe your child is not concentrating on the homework and is distracted. If you have the attitude that the teacher is the one who is paid to teach, then your child is missing out on a three part equation of learning….student/teacher/parent. ALL three have a hand in learning. What do you think the teacher is doing when he/she gets home? Homework with THEIR children, preparing for the next day’s classes, taking THEIR children to ball practice etc, cooking, cleaning, and other familiy obligations….just like you. I would have kids come to school the next day and say they couldn’t do their homework because they had to go to Walmart. I would always ask…did you get off the bus, go to Walmart and stay til bedtime? Did you stayat Walmart  until the bus picked you up in the morning for school? Homework can be done in the morning as well…even done while waitiing for class to start. As you said that school was your job, (and your parents were right) if your current job told you that you had to complete something before the next day and you didn’t, would THEY like it? Probably not, and they would probably fire you if you didn’t cpmplete it more than once. Now…as far as teachers and THEIR homework of preparing and grading….it’s usually done elsewhere BESIDES school. Plus…we are NOT paid to do it at home, but that is where it usually happens.

      I have a great idea…..why don’t YOU become a teacher and maybe you will see the other side of the equation. 😉 

    • avatar Lunita says:

      sdpooh- She probably had no response to your question because she was afraid of answering rudely and being fired. I can’t believe that you think that all learning is capable of occurring within the limited classroom time available during school hours, or that children can learn a concept without practicing it by doing homework. Do you know what a lot of teachers have to do at night, unpaid? Correct your child’s homework, and write up lesson plans because they aren’t given enough time for that during the day. That you can snidely imply teachers are trying to make you take on part of the burden of their job is simply amazing to me. Aside from that, teachers usually don’t assign something and make it due the next day. In general students have a least a couple of days–sometimes more–to complete assignments. I can’t imagine how your child could have had so much homework that it actually interfered with your family time. I went to private schools, was assigned a lot of homework, and still had a lot of time for other activities. It’s a good thing I’m writing this because your comment has left me speechless.