Charles Blow in the New York Times has a sobering list of facts from “The State of America’s Children 2011”, a report issued by the Children’s Defense Fund. The outlook in general is not good. More children living in poverty, more children without homes and more children receiving government assistance for support. The heart-wrenching statistics presented by both Blow and the report itself should be terrifying for this country, and they are. But sometimes, for the luckier parents who are able to provide food and clothing for their children, we feel removed from these statistics. I have to admit, I feel saddened and determined to help out and make a difference when I read these types of reports. I want to donate to local shelters, put in volunteer time and help wherever I can. But I don’t normally feel scared for the future of my daughter when I hear about poverty levels and welfare. I’m not sure if that makes me stuck up or detached or just ignorantly blissful, but I’ve never worried about being able to provide for my daughter.
There was one statistic in this report that made me petrified for my own child.
“A majority of children in all racial groups and 79 percent or more of black and Hispanic children in public schools cannot read or do math at grade level in the fourth, eighth or 12th grades.”
When I read these words, I mentally took back everything I ever said about the public vs. private debate. All of a sudden, I had to rethink my entire position. I graduated from public schools and I’ve always felt like I received a good education. But the fact that the majority of children aren’t working at their grade level is petrifying.
Please do not misunderstand me. I do not think this means public schools are failing and our educators aren’t doing their jobs. I know that there are millions of teachers out there who work as hard as humanly possible to help our children grow and learn. I believe that the majority of teachers of dedicated to their students and honestly want to do what’s best for them. But somewhere, we, as a country, are failing. By some combination of lapses and misfires, our children are slipping through the cracks.
I believe that a big part of the problem starts at home. Parents cannot depend on schools to be the only educator. Why would your child concentrate on their schoolwork if you never told them it was important? How scary is a failing grade if there are no consequences when the child comes home? And how much work from the school day is lost when children come home and get no help, support or encouragement from their families? These things all effect a child’s performance and we need to be aware of it.
On the other end of the scale are parents who are so involved in their children’s life, they try to live it for them. They complete assignments, overstep boundaries and interfere with actual learning. They obsess over the right answer instead of how you get there. They make learning a test instead of an adventure. And they create children who want to perform as opposed to grow.
Parents need to be aware of how their behavior helps or hurts their children. And schools obviously need to do something, because our current system is not working. There are lots of statistics out there about children, their development and their education. Maybe we need to start applying all of them to our lives. Maybe I need to stop assuming that these reports apply to “other” kids. All of our children matter and all of our children need to be loved, supported and provided for. Hopefully, we can all take steps to make next year’s report look a little brighter.