The Philadelphia Enquirer recently wrote a powerful 7-part series about violence and schools called “Assault on Learning.” Part Five was titled “Young and Violent, Even Kindergarteners.” Here’s the introduction:
Tabitha Allen blames herself for her 10-year-old son's violent behavior.
Growing up and living in a drug-infested, hooker-inhabited neighborhood, the 33-year-old mother of five is angry about life.
"My anger reflects off my children," Allen explained one morning in the North Philadelphia rowhouse she inherited from her grandmother. Her son - a thin, almost gaunt, boy with long eyelashes - punched a teacher last June at Kenderton Elementary School, a K-8 in Tioga. He knocked the glasses off her face and blackened her eye with a blow that packed unexpected power.
As a 10-year-old, he had reached the minimum age to be arrested, and ended up with a simple assault charge in Family Court, where he was put on probation. He was removed from Kenderton and transferred to a classroom for disruptive elementary school students in Logan.
Meanwhile, in Chattanooga, Jesse Mathews shot and killed -- shot in the head at close range -- a police officer who had the unmitigated gall to attempt to taze Jesse after a foiled armed robbery attempt. Jesse emerged yesterday from a medically-induced coma. We revived him just so we can spend millions of dollars to kill him later.
In the meantime, Mathews was a parole jumper from Colorado with a nice string of recent robberies under his belt. The FBI has since arrested both of his parents, his sister, and his sister’s boyfriend, all of whom helped Jesse procure weapons and harbored him and paid to keep him away from the arm of the law.
Go read that story. It’s quite the Addams Family they have going, these Mathews people.
All over this great country of ours, teachers are having to fight for every ounce of respect they can get. Unions are being busted, pay ain’t increasing, benefits are being cut, and experts and politicians are demanding “accountability” for those who earn money through educating kids.
“Fixing” teachers is the cornerstone of fixing the problem of education in this country, they say.
I dare you, absolutely dare you, to go read that Philadelphia Enquirer series and that Chattanoogan.com article and have the unmitigated gall to continue insisting that teachers are the cornerstone of a child’s education. You don’t have to be a Tiger Mother to know that parents -- often a Single Mother -- is the single biggest obstacle to improving education across this country.
Parenting, when done right, is one of the hardest, most agonizing, most stressful professions in the world. But it ain’t rocket science. It requires time and devotion, but it doesn’t require a doctorate or scads of intelligence. Just commitment and conviction.
When I look around at these stories in the news about kids and young adults wrapped up in criminal activity, what I see are stories about kids with sh*tty, neglectful, abusive parents.
And usually it’s just one parent, because the man usually drops his seed, earns some kid with his name, and then disappears into the ether of some other woman’s bedroom to repeat the process a few more times. The man is sh*tty, neglectful and abusive by disappearing and taking no responsibility. The woman is left alone to clean up, except she’s often too young, too stupid, or too overwhelmed to do it, and the consequence is that she often becomes sh*tty, neglectful and abusive.
You want to fix education? Go after sh*tty parents with every ounce and every dollar of reform you can. You want to reform prison? Punish parents for the criminal transgressions of their children.
Am I being Draconian and unsympathetic? Hell no. Not to the kids I’m not. Not to the young adults who are raised in households like Jesse Mathews must have been, with parents who kill people in botched robberies, who buy their felon relatives guns and bullet-proof vests, who make a living by dodging the law as one big happy family.
You want to prevent Jesse Mathews? Prevent his parents. Prevent them, or if you can’t prevent them, bring an unholy hammer of Thor down on their f**king skulls when their child proves them incompetent.
Let me get this right. A 25-year-old could go into a bar, drink 20 shots, drive into a family on the highway, and that bar can be held responsible in part for the tragedy, but a 25-year-old f**knut raised in an incompetent or abusive household shoots a family, and the parents aren’t the least bit at fault?? Yeah, that makes perfect sense. Blame a bar for 30 minutes of neglect, but hold parents blameless for 20 years of neglect.
Are there good and committed parents whose children fall and stray and end up criminals despite their best intents? Abso-friggin’-lutely. But these theoretical parents are vastly, VASTLY, less significant in their percentages than committed and good teachers whose students can’t pass a state-issued bubble sheet, and we sure don’t seem hesitant to want to bring down the hammer on those people, much less pay them anything for their troubles.
You want justice? You want fairness? You want a better future? It’s time we started talking about enforcing a new level of justice and scrutiny on parents. Too many have gotten away with too little for too long.