Some governments take education more seriously than others. In Bury, England, a mother of two teenagers will be electronically tagged for three months because she has failed to get her truant teen daughters to attend school, reports the UK Guardian.
Because the girls showed up only 10 and 14 days each out of a possible 179 days in class this school year, the court at first ordered Barbara Woodall to take parenting classes. The court also imposed $209 in fines over her truant children.
But Woodall was subsequently truant herself to a follow-up court hearing. So the Bury court ordered Woodall into new parenting classes and imposed a curfew of 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. , which will be enforced via the electronic tag.
While Americans would probably react with outrage if our courts imposed similar sanctions, I find it fascinating that the children’s interests are being put first: “Over the last two years these two girls have had an appalling attendance record, due to Ms. Woodall’s failure to take her parental responsibilities seriously,” Alan Cogswell, the head of Bury’s education welfare service, tells the Guardian. “Their life chances are diminishing rapidly and we have to reverse that process.”
The leaders of Bury, which has the seventh lowest truancy rate in Britain, seem mighty serious about education. If Cogswell fails to get her daughters into school, she faces prison time! Here’s Cogswell again:
“[For Ms. Woodall] not to improve after a previous parenting order speaks volumes. She has got to make a better job of her parenting, as education is vital to a child’s future. We work very hard with families and schools and these children are going to miss out if things do not change.”
Communities in this country are rarely so activist about making sure each kid finishes their education. While I’m not sure I want to live in that restrictive of a society, the merits are obvious. Bury makes sure all children get a good life start despite bad parents. In America, the Libertarian belief that it is up to the parents and only the parents has taken root. As long as the parent isn’t physically or sexually abusive, America does not hold parents legally responsible for children failing to attend school.
While I don’t expect Americans to ever again accept such a degree of social interference from government, it might be instructive to consider new tools that ensure children get their basic educational needs met even if they have bad parents. Prison time for parents may be over the top. Fining the parent and then putting the money into an educational fund for the children seems quite reasonable to me.