Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Mom’s Viral Rant Reeks of Insecurity and Privilege

I am not a fan of the now viral and profanity-laden rant written by Sarah Parcak, a renown archaeologist, Guggenheim fellow and mom-of-one who announced to the world that her first grade son will no longer participate in virtual schooling — she has declared him officially done with first grade.

She says she and her husband “can’t cope with this insanity.”

Ok, fine. Parenting decision made. Check.

But the rant goes on. She humble-brags about how accomplished and busy she is (and uses all caps to ensure we really understand how many responsibilities she has) and assumes that since countless parents must be as miserable as she is, she is providing a public service by sharing her story. 

She even grants parents everywhere “permission to let it all go.”

She ends the diatribe with this:

In a way it is a fun ditty to read in a, “lady, are you f*** kidding me* kind of way. But it is also a depressing testament on so many fronts — the tone-deafness, the lack of gratitude, the snobbery. 

Welcome to the world. We all have a lot to do. And as countless essential workers put themselves on the front lines while also supporting their children in keeping up with school work, this mom decides to portray herself—and parents everywhere—as victims. 

No thank you. 

Lots of parents  —even teachers— have been sending virtual high-fives to this mom. Good for them if they like and agree with the sentiment. Parcak tells Buzzfeed that “every single parent she knows is miserable”— like most of her commentary, that sounds like hyperbole and is likely untrue but, if it is true, it might be more of a commentary on her personal network than on the larger universe of stay-at-home-school for young students. 

Wise people can and should obviously debate the value of distance learning for a 1st grader and there will inevitably be fundamental disagreements. It would be valuable to hear the different perspectives and it’s unlikely that anyone will believe that one size fits all, whether learning from home or in a brick and mortar building. 

This mother believes that her son’s mere existence is its own version of home-schooling because of the home in which he lives. She is probably right: He has two highly educated parents who talk to him, read with him and involve him in baking, gardening and pre-pandemic world travel. That sounds like quite an education for a little boy. It’s easy for her to make the argument that those “f*** worksheets” that have sent her over the edge are of little value. But so what?

The other side of this coin also has merit. The worksheet is a tether to school, to the teacher, to classmates. It can become part of a routine, a responsibility that belongs to the child who is now at home all the time. I’ve seen plenty of people complaining about “find the main idea” worksheets for their little ones—but it doesn’t mean they’ve taken it upon themselves to pull the plug entirely on school or suddenly see themselves as the authority that grants parents they’ve never met permission to do the same. 

But the larger question, at least for me, may represent a generational divide. I must ask, since when does it make sense to make difficult decisions about our children and then take to a public online forum to justify them before the eyes of strangers? It reeks of insecurity and attention seeking. 

But mostly, in the context of a nation where most children don’t have her son’s life and can’t read on grade level, it reeks of privilege. 

Erika Sanzi
Erika Sanzi is a former educator and elected school committee member. She is also a senior visiting fellow at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Her blog is Good School Hunting and her Substack is Sanzi Says. She occasionally writes for other outlets including Scary Mommy, The 74, and The Hill. She is the mother of three school aged sons and calls Rhode Island home.



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