"Anti-poverty paternalism." Applied to education, it means teaching "middle class" habits to poor children and rewiring the dysfunctional behaviors and values imparted by neighborhoods and, sometimes, parents (see here, for instance). Philadelphia's Mayor John Street took this approach to the next level last week by seeking to change the behavior of parents themselves. As the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, he demanded that thousands of parents of chronic truants attend a meeting "or face jail time." At the event--attended by at least 4,000--Street exclaimed, "We say tonight, ‘No more excuses--every child must go to school.'" To back up his threats, he's added 400 anti-truancy officials. Parents at the session signed pledges promising good attendance in return for amnesty for past unexcused absences. Whether Street is all bark and no bite remains to be seen, as is apparent from the article's closing line: "It was unclear last night what the administration would do about the hundreds of parents who ignored the summons." Still, it's encouraging to see the "truant officer" make a comeback. Kids rarely learn things--at least good things--if they don't come to school.

"Arena full of parents lectured on truancy," by Kristen A. Graham, Philadelphia Inquirer, December 1, 2006

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