08/23/09 — Hard to hear: Councilman's comments should prompt real discussion soon

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Hard to hear: Councilman's comments should prompt real discussion soon

You might have wished he had said it differently or that the presentation had been a little more politically correct -- or maybe not -- but no matter what you might think of the words he used, you have to admit, Goldsboro City Councilman Chuck Allen has a point.

His comments were made as he was casting an affirmative vote on a measure designed to help the county put a graduation coach at Goldsboro High School.

His concern?

That it would not matter. That it would not address the real concerns -- the real reasons some students are still not succeeding at the school.

And there are many, many people in Wayne County who think he might be right.

The debate over what to do about graduation rates and test scores in this county is not a new one -- and Goldsboro High School is not the only place where there are teachers and administrators with that very thought on their minds.

But what Allen suggests is that throwing money at the problem is not going to address the underlying reasons that there are problems at the central attendance district school.

He points out that there are many children from poor families. The implication? They live in some of the city's less than desirable neighborhoods with impediments to education and bright futures all around them.

And he is dead right.

No matter how fantastic the teacher or how dedicated the administrator, sending children back to homes in areas where there is extreme poverty, little hope for a future and where drugs are touted as the only way out is not going to make them see education as their ticket to a better life -- let alone get them to do their homework.

For decades, communities have danced around this issue, refusing to talk about the real lives these children face, the parents -- or lack thereof -- they go home to and the examples they see every day.

There are exceptions, of course. There are some parents who do not let their circumstances dictate their children's behavior or dreams. They demand respect, attention to schoolwork and zealously direct their children away from bad influences that would lead them along another path. They demand not only completed homework assignments, but strict attention to issues such as respect, responsibility and industriousness.

Their children are the ones bringing home the diplomas -- and the scholarships and acceptance letters from colleges and post-secondary training programs.

But what about the rest of the students? Why should we care if they and their parents do not worry about their futures?

Easy. You cannot succeed in this world today without at least a high school diploma and some kind of post-high school training.

And if you have neither, there are only two options -- drugs or welfare -- and guess who pays the price for those choices?

Chuck Allen might not have phrased it as delicately as he could have, but maybe it is time to stop being delicate and to start discussing the elephant in the room -- what it will really take to help Goldsboro High School's at-risk students and those at all the schools in Wayne County.

This is the first, but not always so pleasant, discussion that must take place if someone is going to do something to fix the problem. Let's hope it leads to a real dialogue -- an honest one -- about the next step. And that means examining all the options -- the schools, the makeup of those schools and what effect changing the mix would really have, as well as what we can do as a community to reach these children.

It will require us to talk about tough options and difficult assumptions. But, it is time.

Otherwise, we are going to still be looking for someone to blame and paying for $29,000 Band-Aids for decades to come.

Published in Editorials on August 23, 2009 12:06 AM