Parent Pow—is this what we’ve come to?
The Daily Riff, one of my favorite blogs about educational reform, ran a 3 part series yesterday on Parent Pow, which they describe as “Parent POW is an innovative platform that promotes a new conversation between parent and child, and between families and schools.”
As a bit of a techno-fiend, I was curious about how a platform could promote conversation between parents and children, so I watched the two minute video. You’ve got to check this out.
Let me get this straight. I’m a super busy over-committed dad, but I still love my kid and want her to succeed. Research says the most successful kids are the ones who think about what they are doing, and really talk about their day with their parents. So the best way to do this, isn’t to drop some of the stuff I’m doing, and sit down and have a real conversation with my child? Instead, it’s to say, “Hi Maddie, I’d really love to talk to you about your day, but please first login to ParentPOW, rate these half dozen aspects of your daily life on a ten point likert scale, journal about your feelings and then, once I’ve read the digest of your day, we can talk.” Uh-huh.
I submit this as Exhibit 11,234 of everything that is wrong with the world today. First, you may recall my thesis that many of our problems in education today stem from shallow conversations about value and learning (SAT scores, grades, and college admission). I also fear that instant updates of meaningless data and treating our children as investments like a stock portfolio are making us lose sight of the hard to quantify arc of learning progress and the value of deep thinking. ParentPow hits the two-for one of making conversations more shallow (by sucking up time that could be spent talking filling out ratings on a website) and giving me meaningless data to obsess over rather than truly focus on getting to know my child as a growing, thinking individual.
You can see delusion throughout the ParentPow video.
- At one point the narrator says “In just a few seconds, I actually find out about what’s going on in Josh’s math class.” No, you don’t find out anything in a few seconds—If you want to find something out, you have to actually take the time to talk to your child.
- Parent POW claims to give “kids a voice in their own learning experience?” Really? by choosing a 1-10 rating for each of their classes? Are you serious?
This is before I go off on the horrible teacher stereotypes in this video. The teacher in math class lecturing away while children are asleep, the teacher buried behind the stack of paper confronting parents with a “data dump of test scores”, implying that Parent WOW can arm parents for these conversations. Is this the model we want to portray of teacher parent interactions? Who can bring more meaningless data to the table? Where is the model that the parent and teacher are an allies working together to figure out what is best for the child?
Here’s the thing. If you want to “give children a voice in their own learning experience”, or make a “real difference in your child’s learning success,” there is only one thing you need to do: talk to your child. Have family dinners—ask them about their day, and make it a habit that everyone shares what they learned that day, highs and lows, and generally enjoy one another’s company. No need to interrupt the conversation to login to some website to promote “conversation” prepare you to data-mine your own children.
So I find this website deeply disturbing. Rather than telling parents to step up to the plate and truly get to know their children by being an active part of their lives, this site again feeds the narrative that we’re all too busy, and if we could just boil all those messy details of our kids’ lives down to some easy to interpret (but utterly meaningless) number, then we’d all be better off. When the reality is that the opposite is true. Every time you have a click click through a soul crushing set of likert scales before engaging in a real conversation with mom and dad, you’re valuing shallow, transitory and meaningless data over real, authentic and deep engagement.
What boggles my mind is that the normally awesome folks at The Daily Riff have taken so much energy to be a shill this “platform” that is surely looking for ways to cash in on the relationship between parents and children.
So where does this stop? Khan already wants to report back to me all the time kids spend watching his videos, rather than more authentic measures of their ability to problem solve and find real enjoyment in math. The folks at the College Board keep trying to convince us that the ability to make quick strategic guesses with limited information on the SAT is somehow an indicator of future success (though all research says it isn’t). What’s next? I’m starting to find all those finger paintings my child does to be a chore to look at. Maybe some web startup can come up with a cool way to help me quickly judge their quality by measuring the time my daughter spends swirling her hands around on the paper, bonus points if you could just some how scan those paintings and I’d never have to look at them.
Again, I’m no oracle of parenting advice; my conversations with my 10 month old are mostly babbles and gibberish, and I’ve made more than my share of mistakes as a dad and a husband. I certainly feel as busy as the next person, and I love it when technology comes along and offers me some sort of new trick to free up some time in my day, but I can say with absolute certainty that the day I ask my daughter to log in to some website to tell me about her day is the day I’ve failed as a parent.