Friday, December 08, 2006

Truancy In My Village

I am afraid that many of my people won't like this post that I am about to drop, but it has to be said. Now first, let me say this right off the top, in the spirit of true disclosure: I don't have children, so I can't imagine how hard it must be to raise a child; especially in this day and age with all the negative influences and distractions all around them. But-you knew there was a but coming right-a recent incident in my hometown-Philadelphia- really pissed me off, and made me realize just how a sleep at the wheel some of us black folks are when it comes to this parenting thing.

Folks, it's like this: Here in Philly, we have had damn near 400 murders this year. Most of the crimes have been committed by young African American males, and most of the victims have been young African American males as well. Our Mayor, and all of our city officials, have been pulling their collective hairs out trying to come up with solutions and answers for this wave of violence and bloodshed that has been sweeping our city.

One solution they came up with was to try and cut back on the truancy in our public school system. And why not? In any given year at least 44% of our districts 180,000 public school kids are truant. (8 absences or more) Yes, you heard right, I said 44% or 80,000. And on any given day, and average of 32,000 kids are absent from school. According to a study by Ruth Curran Neild of Johns Hopkins University, 8,000 kids will drop out this year, and another 5,000 will miss so much school, that they might as well be considered dropouts. Now folks, that's a damn shame, and we all know it. And frankly, given the fact that a vast majority of these children look like me, it's particularly troubling to the field.

So our Mayor, in collaboration with the School Board, sent out letters to about 6,000 parents, stating something to the effect that: "Your child has had eight (8) unexcused absences during the 2005-2006 school year". (The operative word hear being YOUR child)Te letter goes on to say that parents must attend the meeting or face possible fines or jail time. So what do you think happened? Yep, only about half of the parents showed up at Temple University's basketball arena for this meeting. Now call me crazy, but if I get a letter from my child's school or worse, the city, telling me that little Jamal has missed 44% of his classes, and my black ass will be fined or face possible jail time; what do you think the field is going to do? Well, after jumping all over little Jamal's little black ass, I am going to be front and center at that meeting. "Mr. Mayor, I am Jamal's father, and I would personally like to pledge, that if little Jamal is not in school more than 44% of the time next school year, it will be because he is either dead or in jail".

Folks, this is not rocket science, there is a direct correlation between an education and where you end up in life. It's that simple: Drop out of high school with no skills, and you get no job, or if you get one, you get one that pays minimum wage. And who wants to work for minimum wage? Not little Jamal. He can't buy "tims", or put Dayton rims ("throw some "D"'s on that bitch") on that new "whip" with minimum wage pay. Hell, he can't get a new "whip" with minimum wage pay. So what's left for little Jamal to do but sling. Yeah he could make a real nice living doing that. But he has to be careful, because more than likely he will end up in jail or dead, like some of the almost 400 who were inside the chalk lines on these mean streets of killadelphia so far this year. Or, he could get some girl or girls pregnant, but then, no job, so how is he going to support his child? Well, there is always the state. After all, that's how his mother made it, and he really didn't know his real father. See what happens? We are back to that same old vicious cycle that just won't go away. Think about it, just days after the Mayor's meeting, it was business as usual, because our little villagers were missing school again.

So make no mistake, schooling is important, but you could never tell that to the almost 3,000 parents who blew off the meeting with the Mayor. Poor Mayor Street, there he was quoting that old African proverb, you know the one, the one Queen Hillary used for her book: "It takes a village to raise a child". No Mr. Mayor, it takes a parent to raise a child. The village, and the resources that the village has can only help with the process. The village produced the infrastructure of the school, the books, the teachers, and the tools to support little Jamal getting an education. The village can't wake Jamal up and make sure he goes to f*****g school! That's Mr. and Mrs. Jamal's job. And if there is no Mr. Jamal, oh well, that's Mommy Jamal's job. Oh field, stop being so tough, Mommy Jamal works two jobs, and she has three other children, and she is not getting any support from their fathers, and the old man she has now is cheating on her, and he abuses drugs, and.....yeah OK, well I have two words for Mommy Jamal: Birth Control. Yep, that will take care of all those problems in the future. And since little Jamal is already here-yeah that sp..ahem,ahem, horse already left the barn- can we just make sure little Jamal gets a shot? Would it be too much to ask that you go to a f*****g meeting? I don't know, even if you don't care what happens to little Jamal in school, maybe so that you won't get fined, or worse, arrested.

Now the village is hiring more truancy officers, from 100-500, and the Philadelphia Family Court is also working some special projects and hiring more people to help tackle the problem.-They heard 8,820 cases in truancy court so far this year alone. But somehow I don't think this will be enough. Because until parents in the homes start caring what happens to their children, the school board and the city will be caught in that vicious cycle with these dysfunctional families.

"We are here to send a clear message to the children and parents of this city, truancy will not be tolerated"

I hear you Mr. Mayor, I just wish more parents could have been there to hear you as well.


Aulelia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aulelia said...

many parents these days are becoming lazy. not all but many. if your child is missing so much school, it not only reflects badly on society, it makes you look like a complete idiot if you don't even know where your child is.

black parents of truant children need to stand up and take responsibility. i am a believer in the way you raise children has an impact in how they go about their lives.

the poor mayor is trying to aim for solidarity but i am sure if his children were missing bare school, would the whole village want to pitch in? the sceptical side of me chants a loud 'no'.

Tasha said...

I agree with aulelia, so many parents are lazy and don't see the need to take responsibility for their children. They believe that the "system" and the media is there to raise their children.

Something else to look at are the other reasons behind truancy besides the lack of parenta responsibility. For example, there may be issues within the schools that make the children not want to go there. If they are faced with a dismal learning enivronment, they may not want to be a part of that. A lot of schools are in extreme states of disrepair and are so overcrowded that kids may feel like they are on the fringes and do not get the attention that they need, so they turn to the streets where they may get that attention.

Also, if the truant kids are over a certain age, they need to be held responsible almost as much as their parents. They are at an age where they know right from wrong, so to put all the blame on parents isn't going to completely ameliorate the situation. There are too many kids walking around who don't have to take any responsibility for their own actions and are allowed to essentially get away with everything. This attitude follows them everywhere they go in life, and that includes to school. If they know that they will face repercussions for skipping school, then they will be more likely to show up consistently.

field negro said...

tasha, as usual you are on point with an insightful post. My only problem with what you said is that before we can even get to what's bothering the kids in school, or even the facilities, shouldn't we get to the point where we are at least making an effort to get them to go to school? And I doubt seriously if any of the type of parent I mentioned knows or even cares about what types of problems their child is experiencing.

Only by going to PTA meetings etc. will they be able to stay engaged with the problems in their children's school. And sadly, right now that just doesn't seem to be a priority with many of these so called parents.

Mrs. J said...

Eeesh. My parents were Philly public school teachers for something like sixty years combined, so I know the type of triflingness you speak of here, field.

You hit the nail on the head with your break down of the (highly probable) parental situation. I don't even think Bill Cosby could make them understand or value the imporance of them not letting their kids f*ck up their own lives. Most of those parents are pretty much kids themselves. And they're just too busy in their own lives, whether working four jobs or single-handedly raising four kids or simply watching soaps all damn day to even care.

Sadly, I think Mr. Mayor would be more effective with bribery. Give the kids xBox 360's or someting if they actually come to school for a respectable period of time (by that I mean everyday).Give another prize for only a few absences, etc.,etc. City residents would hate this idea (why give a prize for something so basic?), but if it helps make the streets safer and produce some responsible citizens, I say so be it. It will benefit everyone.Of course the hustlers will still go hustle - it's too easy for them to just do that. But the reward system might help a few, and a few is better than nobody.

I hate to say it, but the parents are hopeless – unless the school district decides to reward them for their kids' attendance as well. I bet that promise would pack a meeting hall. They'd be all over little Jamal to get to class.

Is it just me, or is there something wrong with saying "It takes a village" in this case? Are they that delusional? Do they think those parents even care what that adage means or where it comes from? Unless that village includes Best Buy or Foot Locker, they're just wasting their breath.

markbey said...

Yo Field very good post. WE are going to have to fight these apathy towards education amongst our people the way we fought against segregation.

The Naacp and the churches are going to have to go into these violent and dysfunctional communities. We are going to have to do widspread town hall meeting in seriously at risk communities asking the people and parents what needs to be done to change the situation.

The law needs to be enforced rigoursly in our niegborhoods especially as it relates to violence, violence can no longer be tolerated because it has caused us too much pain and theft of black lives, hundred of thousands of them could have made a big difference. Tupac is the most complete example I can think of, if he were alive from all of my studies of him it appears that he would probably have mutured and left thugerry and would be one of the strongest and greatest generals in this struggle we are in.

The black church and Naacp, ect is going to have to take a strong stance againgst crime, especially violent crime by blacks in our own communities. From a practical view to allow our kids to witness this extreme part of our overall dyfuntions is unacceptable if we want do indeed want the best for our children and people.

The black church most also get down and dirty about promoting education amongst our people, it should be felt in all services and radiate from all of the respected church officials that ignorance will no longer be encouraged on the part of any black institution, company, community ect.

The black church must lead and they must apply great social pressure on all of us. This leadership includes all of our other social orginizations such as the Naacp.

Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

12 10 06

Amen FN and everyone else. I have little to add because everyone's comments are so spot on! As someone who has tutored kids on and off for years, I can tell you that the priority that education occupies in these people's lives is miniscule. Many want MONEY but don't see the utlity of EDUCATION. As a people we need to get our priorities in order, otherwise within one generation, we will be back to where we were before the civil rights movement.

field negro said...

Damn mrs J! Why don't you say what you really think :) But I agree with you 100%. Hey,the truth hurts and you are telling it.

Mark, sorry about missing your call, I was actually in your neck of the woods (DC) this weekend.

BTW, I know for a fact that you not only talk the talk but you walk the walk as well, and we need more like you in our community.

And mahndia's point about tutoring is right on. Many times when I speak to disadvantagted kids or participate in some type of program, they want to know what kind of whip I drive, or where my bling is. They never ask how far I got in school, or if I happy doing what I am doing.

Sadly,their priorities are all in the wrong place.

Anonymous said...

These problems aren't limited to Philly and DC and NYC they exist everywhere. They aren't limited to black families, failure doesn't discriminate. The same situation exists in the places like Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana.

1. The state provides the education via public schools which sucks btw compared to private schools that most people cannot afford since they are already paying for an increasingly expensive public school system.

2. When the state tells people that if you cannot produce goods and/or services equal to what we(the government) say is the minimum pay then you do not deserve to work(no business is going to pay you if you cannot produce goods and services equal to or in excess of what you are paid and if you are paid minimum wage then you must produce and least that much value...otherwise no job) Minimum wage doesn't raise wage levels for the poor. It just says that there are poor people that aren't worth employing/paying. That is state sponsored discrimination. What business is going to give training to someone and pay them the minimum wage unless that person can make it worthwhile for the business(NONE!)

3. Can't find anyone willing to hire you for minimum wage? Don't worry the state will pay for everything as long as you don't find gainful employment. By the way, have as many kids as possible, we pay you extra for little ones. Which brings us to jamal who will with the help of welfare start the cycle all over again.

Resist or serve

The Angry Independent said...

Excellent Post once again.

Those absentee stats are mind boggling.

We are dealing with the same nonsense here in St. Louis. The St. Louis City school system is near collapse. The State of Missouri is currently looking at coming in and taking over the system (a pretty big move). I,(as well as the Mayor) support a State takeover. SOMETHING has to be done.
St. Louis has pretty high truancy numbers as well....and to make it worse, there are stories of teachers giving A's to students who are not even in class....

And I agree that the parents are the key. Black folks are dropping the ball....

Bill Cosby has been saying this for a little while now.... some folks criticized him...but the man is on point. The parents must get back to parenting. It's really an embarrassment for our people. Folks got their asses whoooped in the 1950's & 60's to give us access to schools.... and folks like Thurgood Marshall & Constance Baker Motley fought like hell for desegregation and this is how Black folks are repaying them???? And Blacks wonder why they get no respect!!! Hmmmm

I think every young person should be required to take a certain number of parenting classes in school... It should be a big part of basic education.

And we never seem to be able to break the cycle of broken homes...leading to children who end up creating more broken homes. The idea of solid stable families has fallen by the wayside.

And I agree with the idea of punishing parents... If I had control of that situation, I would definitely follow through with punishment.

Some of these parents just don't give a damn. They take no responsibility for taking care of their children.... then all of a sudden when little Antoine has a run-in with law enforcement...the parent(s) wants get ignorant.... not with Antoine... but with Police or the people who reported the child to police. It's unbelievable!

I also think this degenerate Hip Hop Culture is not helping.... it's making it worse. This is also a key IMO. If the Hip Hop culture can be dismantled and built back up into something bring back pride for our young people, and bring back the idea of education and respect.... I think that would go a long way towards making things better. (although I don't think this will ever change).

But ultimately it comes down to the parents. Many of these cities are doing all they can do.... the rest has to come from home.

Unfortunately, there are too many folks in the so-called Black Community who have no business with children.

Anonymous said...

Angry independent- I agree with much of what you say. However, did the public education system which has led to low rates of attendance and low rate of literacy do such a good job that you think that they should now be teachng parenting? What would make you think they wouldn't aggravate the problem?


Christopher Chambers said...

What bothers me is that there's a lot of agreement among the commenters ofr this blogpost, yet we are timid about saying these things in public lest we be called Uncle Toms, elitists or worse--in league with right wing dingbats like Shay on "Booker Rising." LOL

I think the Mayor ought to shame these fools and hold a press conference calling them all out. But again, he doesn't want to "alienate" the masses. It pays to pander. After all, Congressman Bill Jefferson just got re-elected by telling all of those Katrina victims (they have been victimized by Mother Nature and Uncle Sam...but they're still bamas, OK) that the cash in the freezer is from FEMA...

field negro said...

smatty, if I may be so presumtuous to answer your question for AI, I would say no! And I say no because I understand that the public education system as we know it is kind of f****d up in many of our major cities. I get that part. Teachers are frustrated, the facilities are poor, and many of the schools are underfunded.

But all the things I mentioned is not an excuse not to have your child in school. One of the reasons that the public education system is so f****d up is because we allowed it to get this way. By not showing that we care what happens in our schools, by not participating in school programs like the PTA, and by our general sense of apathy towards education, we have helped to create this monster. said...

Oh, and Chris, don't even get me started on "Dollar Bill".

Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

12 11 06

You are so right about parental involvement. Christopher,what is with you joking about the Bookerrising site? I am sure that there are many topics broached on that site that may interest you. I am proudly a member of their blogroll and proudly a member of the Field Negro's blogroll. What is the deal?

Anyway, I was thinking about this post FN because my parents are both public school teachers. They hate NCLB, but ironically as a tutor NCLB is the greatest thing! Why? The provision that low income children receive tutoring on par with rich kids. Many tutors get paid via NCLB grants and go to low income neighborhoods and tutor. Although I can sympathize with my parent's disgust with the administrations' stance on eucation, NCLB is lining my pocket AND I believe it is for a worthy cause.

Talk about being conflicted!

Anonymous said...

I know mahndisa, Chris has some serious issues with Booker Rising, and one day I am going to force him to tell us all about it; becuase I am quite sure there is more to that story :)

Yeah sounds like you have to do some soul searching with that NCLB thing. Although maybe, you can still juxtapose the two and deal with the variuos issues and conflicts as they come up.

Your parents are to be commended for their service. I don't think teachers get nearly the amount of credit they deserve in our society.

field negro said...

Darn it must be getting late, posting as anonymous on my own site.

That was me, FN, posting above :)

Christopher Chambers said...

I could write a book (maybe I will) about my issues with Booker Rising and the fascist hucksters, opportunists, fanatics, trivial fools and assorted other sell-outs there-on. They are the "heads" to the coin that has "ghettocracy" folk like Dyson, aging ex-Panthers, entertainers and rappers on "tales." I would put certain black athletes on the "heads" side, but then I read Bill Rhoden's "Forty Million Dollar Slaves." I may even dig up some of Shay's old U of I pals.

But I digress. Again, we are too timid about our distress and we need to be more vocal. We need to press the politicians like Street to be moral leaders (Jeez...I'm Shay!!!) and not panderers. For real, truancy isn't a right wing vs. Panther thing. If the schools suck, if they are dangerous, then we MUST do structural things to fix them so yes--kids will WANT to go, and you right wingers talking your voucher nonsense and No Child Left Behind, etc can go to HELL. If the kids are crazy, thuggish, ho-ish and directionless a la The Wire, and the parents are unwilling or unable to take any common sense or productive role, then we got to call that issue out a la Bill Cosby, and you socialist Panthers/Afrocentric mystical ghetto-apologists can go to HELL, Two-times!!! If all else fails, there's always Depro-provera, and trust me, if don't stop being shy about the hard issues one way or another, our whole society may be steppng toward that "Soylent Green," "Planet of the Apes" and "Logan's Run" type sh*t...

plez... said...

I wonder, how much little "Jamal" is going to learn when he's dragged back to school by the Truant Officer? Is he going to learn anything or will he be a continuous distraction to the children who want to be in school?

I don't have a problem with rounding the little snots up (along with their deadbeat dads and you-know-what moms), but please don't bring them back to school. Lock 'em up and throw away the key, since these truants are on the fast track to being a ward of the prison or worse yet, the hoodlum that wants to knock you over the head and steal everything that you worked hard for.

And Jamal's mother should have a state-sponsored sterilization!

mrigmaiden said...

12 12 06

WEll thanks for your response FN and Chris. Chris I don't really get your disgust with the BR site, as you have pointed out that they are polar opposites to the er more plebian side of Black America. In terms of telling NCLB supporters to go to hell, I don't get it. There are some provisions that are lame, but others that PROVIDE poor children with opportunities that they did not have before. From my experience (tutoring on and off for over ten years) one on one tutoring is the BEST way to work with a child and give them the attention they need. The early part of my tutoring experience was obtained in my old neighborhood in the ghettos of East Oakland, CA. Many of the childrens' parents worked two jobs to support them and did not have the time to help them with their homework. In that regard, lack of time is a deterrent to success not necessarily lack of parental INTENT. That is why I agree with the tutoring provision.

Sure we should make schools more exciting for children and get back to pushing the basics. And in the meantime, we can work with what we've got.

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