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by Shannon Williams

Parents in Hong Kong are protesting because the government is set to impose the introduction of Chinese national education in public schools next month. Among the materials the government will use to educate students is a handbook titled “The China Model,” which among other things describes the Communist Party as “progressive, selfless and united.”

Critics of the curriculum change call the effort a brainwashing attempt, leading thousands of naysayers and parents to protest in opposition of the government-sanctioned issue.

So…if Hong Kong parents are protesting over their children’s educational options, why aren’t Head Start parents in the United States protesting in some capacity? After all, Head Start parents certainly have well enough reason to protest, particularly since there are automatic cuts to the federal budget that are supposed to take effect in 2013.

Why are Chinese parents voicing their concerns over a curriculum, yet American parents are mum about legislation that could prohibit their child from attending school?

We always talk about the achievement gap and education disparities, but in my comparison of Asian and American parents, there seems to be a commitment gap. Frankly, there is a lack of dedication on the part of some American parents.

Initiated 47 years ago, Head Start was developed to provide summer school for low-income children before they entered kindergarten. Eventually the program expanded its services to year-round classes. Currently, Head Start has approximately 962,000 children in its program, which allows thousands of parents the opportunity to enhance their family’s lives by working or furthering their own education.

That’s if Head Start parents actually do something productive while their children are in school.

Head Start gives children and families a head start. It is a much-needed program and drastically cutting budgets or eliminating the program all together would negatively affect the future of children, families and eventually this country.

These are the very reasons why more parents need to be engaged in what’s going on with the local and national political landscapes. Head Start parents and parents in general should make it a priority to vote and carefully consider which government official represents them, because whoever gets elected into office is the very person who could determine the road to your life’s journey.

If Congress cannot find a way to prevent the automatic cuts to the federal government, $590 million would be eliminated from the Head Start program, 80,000 slots for children nationwide would be cut, and more than 30,000 teachers, aides and administrators would lose their jobs.

If that is not a reason to protest or do something to make one’s voice heard, I don’t know what is.

In a matter of weeks all area schools will be back in session. I hope with a new school year comes a new sense of vigor from parents. Despite the enhancement plans various school districts may have for their students or even the fresh perspectives teachers and administrators may bring; a child’s true academic success is going to be based on the commitment that the individual student and their parents have.

Time and time again I hear from teachers and administrators who are adamant about the importance of a parent’s role in their child’s education. Parental involvement is essential in a student’s success. I am not a teacher or administrator, but even I am tired of parents being reactive rather than proactive. This is a new school year so hopefully parents will have a renewed spirit about their child’s academic success. Rather than only go to the school to dispute something or verbally abuse a teacher, try volunteering to chaperone a field trip or attend a PTA meeting. Rather than be confrontational and overly defensive, try actually thinking before you respond. And instead of thinking everyone is against your child, try being your child’s biggest advocate by making sure your child attends class regularly, is on time and is properly dressed. Be your child’s primary cheerleader by ensuring he or she completes the necessary assignments, studies on a regular basis and gets proper rest.

And finally, be an exceptional parent by encouraging your students to make the right choices this school year, which includes practicing kindness and not resorting to the ills of bullying.

(Shannon Williams is president/general manager of the Indianapolis Recorder. You can email comments to her at shannonw@indyrecorder.com.)

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