Parent Involvement is Not Overrated

Last month, The New York Times Opinionator declared, “Parent Involvement is Overrated,” engendering over 600 reader comments with its polemical position. To add more fodder to this debate, I’d like to give my own rebuttal: parent involvement is not overrated.

In his May 17 Op-Ed entitled “Class, Cost and College,” Frank Bruni has unearthed the major correlation between parents and their children’s future success—the f-word—finances.

In a world that may seem more egalitarian than ever, the financial ties between parents and children are a major factor pulling kids up the social hierarchy. By not mentioning this point in the initial article, the writers are remiss in drawing any further conclusions. That primary investment is crucial, as Bruni notes.

In 2011, Bruni stated, “75 percent of the top 200 most highly rated colleges came from families in the top quartile of income” while “5 percent came from families in the bottom quartile.” Financial stability means just that—a path of stable stepping-stones on the way to success.

Speaking from experience, I know my parents’ financial investment in my education hugely affected my academic success.

According to the Hockaday website, Form IV students had to foot a $26,150 bill, not to mention the obligatory costs for college applications during the senior year. The seven years of tuition my parents have paid to the school would be enough to buy a small house or a few luxury cars.

This kind of parental involvement is not possible for many; however, the other factors mentioned in the article—observing a class, contacting a school, helping a child decide courses or helping with homework—are more readily achievable for the majority of parents.

While the writers of the article state that these things “do not improve student achievement” or even “hinder it,” I have reason to believe that my parents’ involvement has enhanced my academic experience.

From Parent Pop-In Days to parent-teacher-student conferences to building that Four Year Plan, my parents have been involved from the very beginning—not necessarily as the decision-makers but rather as a constant support system.

The article points out that at a certain age, parent involvement stops being efficacious, summing it up by saying that parents should “set the stage and then leave it,” parent involvement can be useful in later years.

My mom still acts as a sounding board for English paper ideas; she listens to my explication of Don Quixote as I study for a Spanish test; she pitches me articles for The Fourcast.

I agree with the article that parents should be involved in order to “communicate the value of schooling.” I believe that’s what my parents have done: imbued me with a love of learning and an appreciation for the merits of education.

To be clear, I’m not advocating either extreme. Neither a tiger mother nor a laissez-faire parent got me where I am today. As they say, everything in moderation.

But even my parents’ relatively moderate involvement has had a huge effect on me, and to call that involvement overrated would be a serious disservice to the eighteen-years-worth of effort they’ve put into raising me for a successful future.

– Mary Clare Beytagh