Language, Math, Science, Social Studies; they are all required courses in order to graduate with a high school diploma or GED. We’ve probably all heard the reasoning–this is knowledge we need and use as adults, regardless of our chosen career path. Math is necessary to manage finances; language is necessary to communicate. Social studies teach us about topics such as government functioning and our national history. Science helps us understand how the physical world works. This covers all the information necessary to be successful adults, right?
Where does one learn about parenting? Medical personnel may provide a ‘crash course’ in caring for an infant. Is that sufficient to prepare new parents for the most important task they will ever undertake: parenting? And let’s be real about this; teaching parenting after the baby is born is a bit after the fact. This is one time when Cliff Notes definitely is insufficient. Or can watching one’s parents serve as an adequate substitute for formal education?
Why is parenting *not* a curriculum requirement for graduation? Even those students who do not eventually become parents likely will be aunts or uncles, neighbors, or somehow connected to children. Don’t we all need to know at least some basics about caring for or interacting with children?
My proposal would be that parenting coursework begin in middle school. After all, this is when young people are forming their attitudes about their futures. School counselors and professionals working in college prep programming know that this is when students need to start preparing for college–taking college tract math and science courses. Why not start preparing for parenting as well? And not just the standard, ‘where do babies come from’ curriculum but information about growth and development, nurturing, and building intellectual and emotional potential.
Parenting 101 could start in middle school, providing some basics regarding early child development, communication, stages and tasks to be mastered. Self awareness would be a significant part at this point in learning. Parenting 201 would be mandatory curriculum in high school. This would go deeper into the day-to-day needs of children, financially, emotionally, and physically. Nurturing would be taught and practiced. Not the version many of us know–caring for an egg or a sack of flour–but a more real life experience such as practical experience in a child care facility (supervised, of course). Here students would learn about development and more difficult topics such as disabilities, child abuse and neglect, mental health, and acceptance and tolerance of differences.
Surely parenting is as important as the three R’s. Why not build an educational system that acknowledges this and builds capacity that will have a positive impact for generations to come?