Free Magazine Review: Montgomery Parents (January 2010)


Alternate Cover

What’s it called? Montgomery Parents. It’s got the subtitle “Prattville, Wetumpka & Millbrook.” Which is interesting because, um, those other places aren’t in Montgomery. They have a website. Evidently they have published five issues since their inception in November 2009.

What is it? It is “The River Region’s Foremost Parenting Source.” Their bold. Evidently trying to emphasize the non-Montgomery-ness of their Montgomery-branded periodical.

Where’d we find it? At the Montgomery Airport, lined up with all the city’s promotional propaganda.

What’s the deal? I’m not saying this is a magazine for white people. But it’s hard to think that their target audience is any darker than a spray-on tan, given a) the cover’s display of children who seem never to have seen the sun (and also possibly were extras in The Children of the Corn), and b) the issue’s focus on private schooling.

What sections do they have? There are regular columns – for example, “From Our Family to Yours,” “Living With Children,” “Character at Heart,” “Family Health,” and “Education Matters” – the latter by Montgomery Superintendent Barbara W. Thompson Ph.D. There are also longer features, such as “Do You Have a Reluctant Reader?” and “7 Ways to Boost Your Child’s Immunity.” Finally, there are Departments – various placed items like “Calendar/Support Groups” and the all-important directory of advertisers.

Who advertises? Like most of the free magazines we review, this is largely an advertising vehicle. It’s probably pretty expensive to produce given the liberal use of full-color pages. The advertising is parent-focused, as you might imagine (a drycleaning service urges you to pick up your child while they pick up your dry cleaning), and child-centered (enrichment centers, schools, and orthodontists) but it’s also predominantly woman-focused (plastic surgery, nail salons, “Attention Moms! Work from Home,” etc.). This being the private school issue, there are a million ads for private schools. Who knew that the River Region had so many private schools?

What’s interesting in this issue? You get the feeling that the only people interested in this issue would be some of the many people whose children are featured in the issue – the first fifty pages are newsy items ranging from the extremely important (an Auburn-attired pig raced an Alabama-attired pig at Evangel Christian Academy) to the culturally questionable (Eastwood Christian School students celebrated Plantation Day by dressing in period costumes … no word on who dressed as slaves) to the marginally significant (students participate in e-cycling drive; next drive is scheduled for X date) to the cute-absurd (pre-K students decorated digital Christmas tree in computer class). All of these items are formatted like society columns, boldface names and all.

After that, we get a bunch of content from Alabama-based writer Paige Gardner Smith. Never heard of her? Us neither, but she’s got a website and two nationally syndicated columns recommending toys and books for children. Well, at least the magazine is encouraging reading. Of audio books only, in this issue, evidently to encourage “reluctant readers.” I don’t want to get off on a whole rant here about the post-literate society and the rise of auditory information. Suffice it to say that the rationale presented here is, basically, that many students just aren’t going to read because they may be dyslexic (fine, but that’s a very small percentage, and doesn’t mean they can’t or don’t want to read) or because they had “negative reinforcement of reading during the ‘learn to read’ years”, so what we need to do is just to salvage what’s left – their “love of stories” – and move on. I thought this was supposed to be a magazine encouraging good parenting techniques? Instead it’s reading more and more like a primer for life skills triage. And we’re not even to the lifeboat ethics private school part of the program yet.

The big feature article for the month is a two-page spread by “contributing writer” Gina Roberts-Grey (awesome website!), who displays substantial mastery of passive voice and the comma splice. Elsewhere Montgomery Parents shows better copy editing than, say, Dixie Living, but articles like this don’t fool anyone into thinking this is anything like an actual magazine. I was marginally excited to write a review of this issue because I have some thoughts on how parents’ decisions to send their children to private schools  are abdications of the responsibility of democratic citizenship and the ideals of the common school. I was hoping to see a thoughtful discussion of the issues facing Montgomery’s troubled schools and a realistic assessment of the social implications of the idea that an outstanding education is not a birthright but instead a product to be purchased by those who can afford it.

Instead I learned that “faith based educators expend just as much energy nurturing a child’s spirit and conscious and they do expanding his knowledge.” This from an upstate New York writer who, if she knows it, mentions not a word about Montgomery’s troubled schools and the flight from the city (to the very cities named in Montgomery Parents‘ subtitle) and to private schools that continues to cripple MPS.

And then we get 26 pages of ads in their “Guide to Private Schools.”


5 responses to “Free Magazine Review: Montgomery Parents (January 2010)

  1. You wanted them to be critical of public schools in the Private Schools edition? It’s an ad rag, you mentioned it early on in your review. Every issue of MP is a Private Schools edition, if not specifically labeled as such.

    I won’t defend or deride the magazine, but it has been around for years and years (at least 5 that I know about, probably more.)

  2. As a current college student who grew up being shuffled around by MPS and every other form of school Montgomery has to offer, (Magnet and Private) I really appreciate this blog entry.

    As a citizen of Montgomery, I really appreciate this entire blog. I showed this specific entry to some of my friends and we spent the majority of evening reading into the wee hours of the morning.

  3. I was going to take issue with your swallowed rant about a post-literate elite. Then I was bemused to visit professional writer Gina Roberts-Grey’s website, where I read about how she spends some of her free time as a “chauffer” for her teenage son.

    See that wavy red line under “chauffer,” Miss Gina? What do you think that means? It’s a great language; get to know it sometime.

  4. Just found your blog through a link from Sandra Nickel’s new website, so pardon my late reply to this article!

    Yes, the articles in Montgomery Parents are often banal, but it’s a good resource for local families to find out about upcoming events, especially seasonal consignment sales and other such events that are mostly spread via word of mouth. The magazine is actually published by the son and daughter-in-law of the original publisher, and has been in publication for over twenty years, if I recall correctly. Some of their other issues themes are topics such as summer activities, back to school, holiday events, birthday party planning, etc.

    I’d probably be more critical if it were sold rather than free, like other magazines I’ve seen around town such as Montgomery Living.

    Montgomery Spotlight tends to be more diverse than Montgomery Parents, but I don’t see it around town as frequently.

    I look forward to reading more of your posts!

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