The Dillard Doctrine

Urban Conservative Commentary on Politics & Life

Failing Our Children

Anyone who knows me well knows that my first two policy loves are national security/defense issues and veterans issues. Being a parent of two young kids, though, has forced me (and not unwillingly) to pay attention to things outside of those circles that will affect them more so than me.

So running across stuff like this-while not surprising-makes me a lot mad:

An achievement gap separating black from white students has long been documented — a social divide extremely vexing to policy makers and the target of one blast of school reform after another.

But a new report focusing on black males suggests that the picture is even bleaker than generally known.

Only 12 percent of black fourth-grade boys are proficient in reading, compared with 38 percent of white boys, and only 12 percent of black eighth-grade boys are proficient in math, compared with 44 percent of white boys.

I see stuff like that, and all it does is reinforce my resolve to make sure my children-particularly my son-end up on the positive side of those statistics. But as I keep reading, what do I find as the (suggested) solution (with emphasis added)?

The report urges convening a White House conference, encouraging Congress to appropriate more money for schools and establishing networks of black mentors.

Like I said, I’m not an education policy guru and don’t profess to be one. But here’s my problem(s):

The national debt is at $1.3 trillion. Day in and day out, someone is complaining about what we don’t have money for. So why is it that the first reaction to most problems (not all!!) is to run to Congress for more money? I’m sorry; if you’ve been under a rock, the government is broke. The whole “spend, spend, spend…and we’ll pay for it later” mentality is what got us to the above number. And I’m not going to single out Republicans or Democrats for blame; it’s been a bipartisan effort (and anyone who tells you otherwise needs to be sent off for some research).

Now, we can argue all day over what we can cut, what we don’t need, and how we can shift funds around. But more importantly, what things can we do as parents to curb these numbers? From the article (again, with emphasis added):

“There’s accumulating evidence that there are racial differences in what kids experience before the first day of kindergarten,” said Ronald Ferguson, director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard. “They have to do with a lot of sociological and historical forces. In order to address those, we have to be able to have conversations that people are unwilling to have.”

Those include “conversations about early childhood parenting practices,” Dr. Ferguson said. “The activities that parents conduct with their 2-, 3- and 4-year-olds. How much we talk to them, the ways we talk to them, the ways we enforce discipline, the ways we encourage them to think and develop a sense of autonomy.”

For other parents of 3 year olds (or 1 year olds, to include my daughter), what do you do with your kids at home? Do you sit down and read to them? Do you point out trucks and buses until they can repeat those words back to you? Do you give them tasks, reward them for a good job or set expectations in the case of a bad one?

Or do you feed them a steady diet of Teen Mom, 106 and Park, and PS3…and then think it’s cute when they can teach you how to Dougie or beat you in Madden, but can’t read or count?

(disclaimer: all I know about Dougie is that it’s in a song. I’m assuming it’s a dance. Never seen it; can’t do it. If I’m wrong, feel free to educate me. But first, keep reading.)

If you’re the second parent instead of the first, you’re a failure, and you’re setting your kids up for the same. Yes, that’s harsh. But it needs to be said, and not in a nice way.

We-not just us in the black community, but especially us in the black community-have to get our minds out of the trap that the government is the fix all, end all. It’s not. There are plenty of things that we as parents need to be doing for our children so that, in many cases, they don’t have to face the same things we do as adults.

I credit my mom-and yes, my dad-with instilling in me the importance of education as a child. Yeah, at times it hurt (if your parents are/were like mine, you’ll understand). Yes, as a young adult, I lost sight of what they gave me. But if you ever wonder why I sometimes kick myself for getting a B or C on an assignment-especially one that I put a lot of preparation into-it’s because I was taught at an early age that education is a gift, and not one to be played around with. And I want to pass that on to my kids. I don’t want them to get to the point in their life where they realize the only box they haven’t checked is the education one…’cause I know what that feels like.

And the things I need to do to keep them from that get done at the ages of 1 and 3. Not in their teens. And even better…they’re free, compared to the alternatives.

We’ve got to get to the point where we’re able to not look for funding or to others to do the things we should be doing as parents. That conversation about early childhood parenting that Dr. Ferguson says needs to happen does need to happen.

But it needs to start in a mirror.




Written by Coby Dillard

November 10, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Posted in Editorials

Tagged with ,

One Response

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  1. I agree completely Coby. The government has been spending money on education for a couple decades now and the situation has only worsened, not improved. Education needs to be returned to the districts and the parents. Throwing money at an academic problem has NEVER solved it. Actual teaching will. I thank God I took the time to be involved with the education of my children. I discover they are so much better off for it.

    Tim Sheflin

    November 10, 2010 at 3:36 pm

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