Friday, April 11, 2008

It’s Really About the Children

Anonymous, one of my most prolific readers, said this in response to my recent post:

I notice you're not making any demands of the parents of the children. I believe that's one of the biggest problems in education anywhere, and it certainly isn't better in the city. How about demanding that the parents do their part to support their children's education by teaching them basic manners, some sort of respect for authority, and participating by volunteering their time?

Well, Anonymous, you are obviously right. And, if I ever get the chance to play God, I am going to redesign the world so that every child has two loving and caring parents. I am going to make sure that every child lives in a stable home where there is sufficient income for each family member to have all of life’s necessities (and a few luxuries too). I will fix things so that parents teach every child basic manners and respect for authority. Of course, every child in my world will be able to attend preschool from at least the age of three and will therefore come into our public schools ready to learn. Each family will have at least one parent who will have the time and energy to volunteer at school for at least two hours every day. A parent will always be available to help each child with homework and to give them the encouragement children need to succeed in life.

Unfortunately, Anonymous, we have been dealt a different hand. Our city has thousands of children who, through no fault of their own, are trapped in a multi-generational cycle of poverty. Many times there is no responsible adult in their lives to teach them the manners and respect you say they should have. They don’t have a parent who has the time and energy to volunteer at school. They don’t live in a family in which the income is sufficient to provide them with life’s necessities. Many of them come to school hungry because there is not enough food for breakfast at home. These are the children that Dr. Crupi talked about in his report last fall:

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that the Richmond public schools are getting large numbers of children who are not ready for school, who grow up in single parent homes that don’t (or find it difficult to) reinforce education, require nutritional support, and live in a community environment that that makes it very difficult to study and learn. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that much of the poverty is concentrated in 4000 public housing projects that are primarily located in Fairfield Court, Whitcomb Court, Gilpin Court and Creighton Court.

We, the community living in the City of Richmond have a choice. We can find people to blame, whether it’s the School Board or the Superintendent of Schools or school administrators or teachers or parents. We can throw up our hands in defeat and say that it is hopeless. Or, we can do what is necessary to make sure that our at-risk children have the opportunity to break out of their poverty. A first-class education is probably the only chance many of these children have to succeed in life. We must provide it to them. It is a simple matter of justice.

2 comments:

Gray said...

"...we can do what is necessary to make sure that our at-risk children have the opportunity to break out of their poverty. A first-class education is probably the only chance many of these children have to succeed in life. We must provide it to them. It is a simple matter of justice."

You summed it up very well. The key words are "opportunity" and "justice."

I find more often than not people first blame the kids and their home lives then the teachers before moving up the ladder to administration and policies. It reminds of the “War on Drugs” where the users then peddlers are busted but never the king pin.

Note: the Zero Tolerance policy like the "War on Drugs" targets the poor, especially the children without parent advocates.

Anonymous said...

Well said. I am glad to see some local businesses are allowing their employees, even encouraging employees to take time form their workday to mentor students.

What's interesting is when those mentors come to the same realization that I have- the state of the school buildings should be a priority, not an afterthought.

Now we just have to get the politicians to follow through on promises.