03/07/09 — The hard truth: Absentee, irresponsible parents create troubled children

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The hard truth: Absentee, irresponsible parents create troubled children

Fixing education in Wayne County has been a subject on the lips of many politicians at all levels of late -- and has been a perennial election issue.
That's because it is easy to say. Who would be against seeing a higher graduation rate or fewer students leaving school without having mastered basic skills?
But what you do not often hear is the how -- exactly what magic pill the politician in question has that will fix any ills plaguing this county's classrooms.
And even fewer want to talk about the real problem -- the one that any good classroom teacher knows well.
There are many county students who simply do not have a chance -- not because of the classroom education they receive, not because of the condition of their school lunchroom.
They are at a disadvantage almost from the word "go" because of the environment in which they live and the parents whose behavior they model.
That does not necessarily mean the money their parents make. Great children and super students come from families where the finances are less than certain -- and children with problems come from rich homes, too.
But the problem comes when students with potential are faced with parents whose idea of parenting is inattention, neglect and selfishness.
There are children who have great teachers and every option possible in a classroom and will overcome poverty, a bad neighborhood and disinterested parents. They might even be able to fend off peer pressure and to set their sights on a better life.
But many more will not be strong enough and will fall into the lure of drugs, premarital sex and anything else that makes them feel better about themselves. They give up. And no teacher can completely overcome that kind of setback -- especially as the student gets older.
Want to fix education? Start by addressing the real concerns.
A child's environment plays a role in the person he or she becomes. A home that is less than desirable, in a bad neighborhood where there are other children who have made bad choices, will influence the future a child sees for him or herself. It affects self-esteem, dreams and work ethic. It just does. And to pretend otherwise, is simply wrong.
A teacher can inspire, but if that child goes home to an environment that undoes every step forward, extra-ordinary measures are going to have to be taken to show that child a different way.
And that takes leaders who are willing to stand up and challenge their churches and organizations to take on the task of getting involved.
Fixing education begins by addressing the root cause of failure -- talking about what no one wants to address. That is the kind of leadership that solves problems -- and doesn't just produce soundbites.

Published in Editorials on March 7, 2009 11:40 PM