November 03, 2002 11:00 pm

Classes exist in all sorts of things — soapmaking, Chinese cooking, steelhead fishing. All are worthwhile topics. But why is there such a dearth in classes in the important topic of teaching people how to be parents?

As a society, we need to be better parents. According to the recent survey, "A Lot Easier Said Than Done," 61 percent of parents rate themselves as "fair" or "poor" at raising children.

The nationwide survey of parents conducted by Public Agenda found that coming up with values you want to impart to children is a lot easier than actually getting the job done. In fact, 53 percent of parents thought they were doing a worse job of parenting than their parents did.

Everyone seems to have a different idea of what values are important. Many people fear schools would impose values that parents would find objectionable. It would not be hard, however, to come up with values that most would find appropriate, such as showing respect and appreciating the rights of others.

Of course, there are some excellent parenting classes already in schools. One example is the class where students carry around a "baby" for an extended period; most students come to the realization that starting a family is a huge responsibility and should be done with care. But classes such as this one need to be expanded and become a greater part of the curriculum.

true success with parenting is a hit-and-miss proposition. No one is 100 percent successful. Life is mostly not black and white but shades of gray. Some factors such as family illness, poverty or past incidents of domestic violence may throw a wrench into the works. And with most couples both working these days, time invested in parenting has shrunk. Couple that with the slow erosion of community standards — remember it takes a village to raise a child — and we have a society in trouble and needing help.

We can do better. What's wrong with schools and parents supporting each other on instilling universal values such as self-control, self-discipline, self-respect and honesty — principles that all can agree are important to making functioning members of society?

Let's find a proven curriculum and train our parents, or parents-to-be, so that they can be as good at parenting as they are, say, at making soap or fishing for steelhead.

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