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The bigger problem is with parents

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Published on: Thursday, February 28, 2013

By Brian J. Karem

Our intrepid leaders in county government and in the county’s school system are, according to a story we’ve published this week, bemoaning the slumping test scores and production by certain students in the Montgomery County Public School System.

In particular, our story outlines the poor performance of Hispanic and Black children versus the performance of White and Asian students.

Our government is scrambling for systemic answers to increase these test scores and examining how poverty affects these students.

Without a doubt poverty is a very virulent factor in determining whether a student performs well in school or does not. Going to school hungry every day can certainly weigh down your school performance. Not having a place to study, not being able to afford decent clothes and not having a healthy work/study habit because of economic stress in your life can definitely destroy your ability to perform in a classroom.

But, let’s not tip-toe around the larger issue: parenting.

It is the biggest fault of my generation we have not parented our children well. Some in the minority community have felt this sting far worse than Asian or White students.

The problem is if you point this out, then you run the risk of being labeled a racist.

As even Bill Cosby found out when he said, “People marched and were hit in the face with rocks to get an education, and now we've got these knuckleheads walking around. The lower economic people are not holding up their end in this deal. These people are not parenting. They are buying things for kids. $500 sneakers for what? And they won't spend $200 for ‘Hooked on Phonics.’ I am talking about these people who cry when their son is standing there in an orange suit. Where were you when he was two? Where were you when he was 12? Where were you when he was 18, and how come you didn't know that he had a pistol? And where is the father? Or who is his father?”

Beyond the anecdotal evidence I can offer as a high school football coach, and one who has mentored young men from anywhere in our community during the last 20 years, I can also offer this warning: be a parent now or we all pay later.

I spent far too long as a crime reporter, working for – among other venues – America’s Most Wanted. During my years covering crime I interviewed a variety of men on death row. Every single man I interviewed or helped to catch on that crime show was as different as two snowflakes. But they all had one thing in common: lack of a father in their life or an abusive father in their life.

While Ike Leggett and Joshua Starr are understandably upset with poor performance by certain minority students, the problem cannot be solved by government alone. Perhaps there are programs to make people better parents – and if there are we all could probably benefit from a stop in that classroom – but the bottom line is you cannot throw money at this problem and fix it.

I’ve interviewed hard core gang bangers who were already parents when they were 15-years-old. They were on government assistance, but no one assisted them in making mature, rational decisions regarding becoming parents or how to conduct themselves as fathers after the fact.

Dana Tofig, the spokesman for MCPS points out how the school system intends to hire 30 teachers who will focus on literacy and mathematics, “especially in schools where there are large gaps and students are not performing at higher levels.”

Dana’s a great guy, and in a side note quite a musician, but it matters little how many teachers the system hires if students don’t get guidance and teaching at home.

Diego Uribur, executive director at Identity, Inc. helps some of these at-risk students by visiting Hispanic families in their home in an effort to get at the root cause of the problem for at-risk students.

That’s a great idea.

But never forget Pogo’s statement about who the enemy is. He is us. All of us. We make fools of ourselves every day for looking outside of ourselves to answer this question about education. It isn’t a Black problem. It isn’t a Hispanic problem. It’s a parenting problem. We need more parents. Any fool can make a baby. It takes a man to be a father.

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