I have a folder with approximately 75 articles clipped from various sources, recently adding “Effective parenting is a basic key to learning” clipped from the St. Petersburg Florida Times on 1/07/07 written by a Bill Maxwell. He writes “In Pinellas County, like so many other parts of the nation, black parents and the public school systems are locked in a virulent, protracted and phony debate about how to close the achievement gap between black and white children, black parents and their “phony” organizations (my interpretation) representing them and who are blaming the public schools for the poor performance of many black children. They are demanding the school system shoulder the lion’s share of the responsibility. The school district Superintendent says that they his schools are unrealistically expected to solve a problem that no other district in the nation has been able to solve.” The old saying used to be “turning a sow’s ear into a silk purse”.
Mr. Maxwell, his title and position is not listed but his picture shows him to be a black, says he calls ‘the achievement gap debate “phony” primarily because black parents, many of them low-income single moms, have virtually absolved themselves of academic responsibility ( and all other responsibilities, I add) for their children’s poor performance in school. They also ignore the negative affects of non-school related factors, such as dysfunctional environments, poor nutrition and a lack of adult role models that harm their children.” In a news conference one local minister reiterated what has been said millions of times all across the county “If we are going to close the gap, we must first heal our families. Mr. Maxwell asks that people blaming the schools should read “Class and Schools: Using Social, Economic, and Educational Reform to Close the Black-White Achievement Gap.” He further states that all concerned should also read works of Doris Entwisle and Karl Alexander of John Hopkins University and performance studies conducted by Betty Hart and Todd Risley of the University of Kansas. Also they should know all they can about the KIPP program that has two simple rules, work hard and be nice. The feeling is that too many uniformed people have put themselves or been put in leadership positions.
A column in the N.Y. Times on August 8, 2006, written by Diana Jean Schemo, titled “It Takes More Than Schools to Close Achievement Gap” states that recent studies have forced educators and policy-makers to ask “What if the impediments to learning run so deep that they cannot be address by any particular kind of school or any set of in-school reforms? What if schools are not the answer?
Mr. Maxwell concludes “until the concerned blacks muster the courage to ask these questions, the debate about closing the achievement gap will remain a phony one and black children will continue to lag behind their white peers”. Also, I will add, behind their Asian, Indian and other kids of other races and colors.
On 2/08/07 Jennifer Davis writes “Peoria Council weighs parental law” and quotes Gerisa Eppinger, who spends her days helping troubled kid and families, “Peoria is not geared for low income people of any race, fix that first before you blame the parent. You never know what a parent has to go through until you’ve walked in their footsteps. They’re trying to work and put food on the table.” She believes the council is trying to put a quick fix to the problem by blaming the problem on the parent.
I don’t know Ms. Eppinger but she is only partially correct based on my experience as a parent, teacher, coach, business person, restaurant waiter, horse groomer, farm worker, politician, informed reader and volunteer. She lost me totally when she said “the city and the families would be better served if there were something for kids to do.”
I could list 100 things available to most all kids in the community starting with; how about helping around the house and developing a work ethic, tend a small garden, join 4-H or the scouts, read books, go to the parks, play tennis, baseball soccer, volleyball, run track or participate in any sports, art and dance classes area available, singing groups, music groups, go to church, volunteer, go the library, stay for after school programs, join Carver Center, Proctor Center, Boys and Girls Club, and I’m just getting started. The community offers poverty and below residents, relatively cost free programs by the dozens.
Every article I’ve read, every book I read put the parents at front and center to the problems, with truancy, crime, unmarried pregnancy (maybe hardest to control by parents) and dropouts not just in school but in life. Jerry Klein writes “kids without parenting are like running an unplugged computer”.
As to lack of jobs; hogwash again. Why force an employer to hire someone whose can't read, can’t communicate, can’t write a sentence, has a drug or jail record, lacks responsibility and dresses and make themselves up to look like space aliens? It is not the private sectors, nor the public sectors, to hire people who will bring the current worker down to the unqualified person’s level. There are jobs all over town being filled by people who try to get into this country by any means, legal or illegal, and do work any job available.
Crime, dropouts, truancy, lack of work ethic, lack of responsibility has always been tracked mainly to the lack of reasonable parenting. On previous blogs, I’ve addressed this problem many times. If a child is brought into this world by accident or intention, the people involved in the birth are responsible for the conduct of that kid until he or she is legal age. It is up to the community to do something about it if the parent can’t or won’t. And adoption in the United States should be made easier. My daughters experience was one she and her husband did not enjoy. They are enjoying the result but the effort was discouraging.
Schools could do more but because of certain educational requirements like endless testing of kids who should be in Vo-Tech classes, much of the product turned out or turned away by lack of understanding or lack of interest, is unacceptable in the work force. All kids are not born equal but all must be given equal opportunity. Good teachers know that all kids are not going where they or their parents think they are; to college and a cushy job. I am an advocate of equal opportunity and a 2nd chance but not an advocate of people who can go to school to learn but don’t and can work but don’t. I am an advocate of placing those who are not interested or can’t adjust to a standard education be given an opportunity in different fields of learning such as training for a fulfilling career that probably won’t be white collar. So what? Hanging out with the country club set isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Many schools across the country have made more adjustments to school and parental problems. Many adjustments seem to be hindered in Peoria, partly I believe, by fear of lawsuits, political correctness, intimidation and the worry about being called a “blue collar” town. Peoria Public Schools have a greater need to adjust than say Dunlap or Washington. We do many good things but are too politically correct to do all of what needs to be done.
One act has always worked for parents, schools and the community, when I was a kid, was “tough love”. Get as much Federal and State Government out of local education issues and ignore the whiners and the pacifists who want every parent who tries to show “tough love” to a kid, put in jail.
Promise Peoria and dozens of other programs in place and running with some success are small but important steps. Those public bodies in need must admit they need help and make transparent where and how they need help. This is a compassionate community but we need some of our citizens to take on more responsibility themselves or pay the price for their failures. It is past time to step up, not continue to back down. Let’s back more leaders who aren’t afraid that their actions will cost them the next election.