In the city of Trenton, it is apparent from a simple walk through the neighborhoods that we have a generation of “children raising children.” Some of these young women no doubt have jobs, while a significant number are dependent on the City, State, and their extended families for support raising their children. And in a bizarre note, these young mothers actually receive additional social service money if their children are identified as having learning disabilities, which is sadly a common condition in these families. Financially speaking, there is actually a disincentive in actively supporting their kids academically!
In a May 2012 Op-Ed I wrote for the Trenton Times I identified 6 ways in which we can measure the performance of parents in raising their children to be “productive, independent, and mature young adults who are properly equipped to succeed after high school. The areas in which these parents should be providing support are in: (1) Health and Welfare, (2) Resource Acquisition, (3) Oversight, (4) Engagement, (5) Opportunities for Enrichment, and (6) Values and Advocacy.
It is my contention that out of wedlock children are being poorly served by their parents in most if not all of these areas, and that this failure is tantamount to resigning another generation of children to a future of poverty, lost opportunities, dependence, and higher likelihood of future incarceration.
My concern is not with assigning blame for the horribly high rate of out of wedlock births, but just like some “women rights” advocates see criticism of out of wedlock births as an assault on black women in both racial and gender terms, I am taking a contrary position and do see this as a crisis of values and a failed understanding of the importance that traditional family structures have to a child’s future success.
It seems self-evident that inner city communities with a high percentage of dysfunctional and out of wedlock families also suffer from substandard, schools. I base this on the belief that families have a direct impact on the quality and performance of the schools served by these communities.
If inner city schools are to have any hope of improvement, then improvements must be made to the demographics of the community: more traditional families, more socioeconomic diversity, and more indigenous businesses will all contribute to greater quality in academic conditions and greater opportunity for academic achievement.
So when the comedian Bill Cosby, along with Harvard Psychiatry Professor Alvin Poussaint challenge the inner city black community to confront the culture of victimhood and culture of the street and replace it with a culture that embraces more traditional “middle class values,” they are striking a chord that resonates with those old enough to see the degradation and deterioration of their communities. Unfortunately, this younger generation, a generation seemingly immune to ideas such as guilt and shame, appear uninterested or unsophisticated enough to see the future. It is a sad commentary on the world today, and it is sad reminder that unless we confront and somehow change the path we are on, the children born into these communities face a future of false hope and failing schools. Shame and guilt, it’s time for a healthy dose of both.