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.”