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Education

What's Really Wrong With American Public Schools?

Poverty, low attendance, and negative peer influence all trace back to fatherlessness.

Willie Richardson · Nov. 6, 2019

There is no good way to measure the success of a public school unless you measure what dictates the success of any public school. For example, if I worked on the line for a car manufacturer and every fifth car that came off the line had a dent in it, I would be compelled to find out what’s going on. I would not check the cars; I would check the system that is producing dents in the cars. In other words, I would stop the line and measure where and when the malfunction occurred. The malfunction in the public school does not begin with the “dent” on the students’ report card or state-mandated tests. It begins with the “dent” in the students’ home.

If you listen to the experts bellow about the reasons high-school students drop out they say it’s due to three things: poverty, low attendance, and negative peer influence. On surface, these three things are the perfect scapegoats for poor performance. However, those are only the “dents” that have occurred. Poverty has a name. Low attendance has a name. Negative peer influence even has a name. Poverty’s name is laziness. Low attendance’s name is indifference. Negative peer influence’s name is anger. The umbrella that all three of these names fall under is called fatherlessness.

While walking the halls of a local public high school, I spoke with an athlete dragging his feet to class. I exclaimed, “Move like you have somewhere to be!” He looked back grinning and said, “I’m quick! Check my stats on the football field.” I said, “Ok, so what’s your GPA?” He responded, “I don’t know that.” I told him, “Those are the stats I’m talking about! If you don’t know those stats, what you do on the field don’t mean nothin’! He turned and looked at me and I asked him the silver bullet question. "Where’s your daddy?” He looked me in my eyes with resentment and said, “I ain’t got no Pops.” I told him, “I can tell by the way you conduct yourself. You are wandering the hallway aimlessly not realizing you must be two-dimensional (great on and off the field). If you are so quick, then you should have been in class five minutes ago ready to learn.”

He looked at me again and grinned as if to say, “Yeah, you’re right.” He seemed like a good kid, but he needs some fatherly leadership. I walked him to class and told him I would be back to eat lunch with him and to provide him more guidance. This youngster has a real chance to go pro. He is a huge defensive end, but his lack of discipline off the field may cut him short in the long run.

Colossians 3:21 says, “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.” The young athlete roaming the halls was angry that his father left him alone. He was also discouraged as his sluggish walk with sagging pants suggested. A father provokes his son or daughter to wrath by simply walking away in an endless disappearing act. A father’s absence creates poverty, apathetic attitudes for school attendance, and children who disrupt the school behavior codes of conduct. The Bible is right and somebody’s wrong.

Brookings Institute scholars Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill propose a concrete agenda for increasing opportunity that is cost-effective, consistent with American values, and focuses on improving the lives of the young and the disadvantaged. They emphasize individual responsibility as an indispensable basis for successful policies and programs. In their book Creating an Opportunity Society, they examine economic opportunity in the United States and explores how to create more of it, particularly for those on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder.

The authors recommend a three-pronged approach to create more opportunity in America:

  • Increase education for children and youth at the preschool, K–12, and postsecondary levels

  • Encourage and support work among adults

  • Reduce the number of out-of-wedlock births while increasing the share of children reared by their married parents

In other words, graduate from high school; get a full-time job; don’t have a child before age 21 and get married before childbearing. Among the people who do these things, according to the research of Haskins and Sawhill, about 75% attain the middle class, broadly defined. However, out-of-wedlock births have a lot to do with out-of-wedlock sex, and this pattern often leads to experiencing out-of-wedlock poverty.

Poverty means you have more mouths to feed than income. It does not mean you are prone to violence or that you can’t learn. Poverty is a great motivator — just ask Frederick Douglass. Low attendance means you don’t find value in education. It does not mean you can’t get a ride to school since the school bus runs all morning. No excuses. Negative peer influence is the lack of love shown at home. It does not mean you go with the peer pressure since you can choose your own friends instead of them choosing you.

Poverty, low attendance, and negative peer influence are all “dents” in a child’s life. They do not define the student. Unfortunately, education experts have labeled entire school districts and zip codes based on the “dents” of poverty, low attendance, and negative peer influence. Worse yet, these same “experts” in education bypass the system (at home) that created the “dents” while attempting to fix the dents that are continuously coming off the conveyor belt ad nauseam.

Every system is perfectly designed to get the results that it yields. Maybe one day the education “experts” will address this giant, pink elephant lethargically sitting in the hallways of our public schools.

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