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Mac Bledsoe to Address Passport to Parenting

Published in the Herald-Republic on Monday, March 11, 2002



When Mac Bledsoe decided to become a high school teacher, he never considered his main audience would wind up being well beyond worries of pimples and prom dates.

But it took Bledsoe just a few years of treading the classroom tiles to realize most of the teaching he was doing had little to do with filling teens' minds with facts.

What took up most of his time was teaching kids how to -- or how to want to -- learn. It was a basic skill, the bedrock of learning, that Bledsoe felt should have been in place years before kids strapped on a book bag.

"(My wife, Barbara, and I) were spending so much time digging ourselves out of that mire we didn't spend any time teaching," said Bledsoe, a 27-year teaching veteran who, for five years, taught freshman English and public speaking at Eisenhower High School. "We felt like we kept coming home from school frustrated by the fact that so many kids were coming to school with no direction."


What to do when the problems start at home? Start the fix at home, as well -- with the parents.

The Bledsoes were the parents of two sons, and they thought their positions as teachers gave them a unique chance to know the mindset modern teens lacked. They decided to try their hands at coaching parents on how to teach morals, ethics and values to their own children. They phoned the parents of their students, and rounded up about a quarter of them for a special "parenting class."

It was enough to make a noticeable difference, Bledsoe said.

"The outcome absolutely shocked us," he said. "It had a profound effect on our classroom -- changed the diligence on homework ... the attendance ... the performance, in assignments. We thought we were on to something."

Over the next two decades, the Bledsoes moved from Walla Walla to Yakima, then finally to Kalispell, Mont., where they're now based. Meantime, the program evolved into a complete curriculum, and a full-time job -- in part, thanks to the couple's 30-year-old son, NFL quarterback Drew Bledsoe.

"About five and a half years ago, Drew came to us and said ... 'I want to build a foundation around what you know,' " Bledsoe said, adding that Drew suggested they head the foundation, devote all their time to sharing the program they'd developed. "It was kind of scary -- to think about quitting our teaching jobs. But we thought it over and realized this might be a way to round out our careers by touching way more kids than we could teaching."

With a gift of $1 million from Drew, the Drew Bledsoe Foundation was created to support the "Parenting with Dignity Program."

Barbara and Mac Bledsoe now travel from city to city around the nation, drumming up interest in their parenting course, a $99.95 videotape library of nine one-hour segments, meant to be viewed weekly, by groups of parents. Participants are given worksheets to take home and use with their children.

At the core of the program is the idea that "whether parents want to believe it or not, their children will make all of the big decisions in their lives ... when the parents aren't present," said Bledsoe.

Odds are when kids are forced to make choices about potentially life-altering things such as drugs and sex, Mom and Dad aren't going to be holding their hands.

"The kids are going to make the decisions, and what they're going to do is use the ideas in their heads," he added. "They'll use what the parents have taught them, if the parents have done a good job of teaching."

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