The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a strong advocate for education, especially as it relates to educating black youths.
King lived in an era in which segregation and this country’s long-standing separate-but-equal doctrine was a way of life, a situation the civil-rights movement worked hard to eliminate.
As we prepare to remember the anniversary of his assassination April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn., his words about education still reverberate today:
“We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education,” King said. “The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate.”
I believe that is where the Youngstown school district has lost its way.
It is difficult to concentrate on worthy objectives if you are hungry, feel neglected or abused, have a paucity of textbooks or educational material and a feeling of hopelessness.
The city school board, rightfully so, has been criticized repeatedly for its ineffectiveness by this paper, The Buckeye Review (the Mahoning Valley’s black-owned weekly newspaper), the state and the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
The elephant in the room, however, remains a call for parents to be held accountable, to a certain degree, for what has happened to a school district that has produced local and federal appellate judges, businessmen, journalists, doctors, pastors and lawyers, and, yes, teachers and principals.
Let me be clear: This is not a blanket indictment of all parents in the school district. There are many who are immersed in the district and working with their children to obtain a quality education.
Still, there also are many who have neglected their responsibility.
The old-school philosophy of education beginning in the home, for the most part, has been lost on this generation of parents.
It also appears, in many cases, the partnership between parent and teacher has been abandoned.
Parent-teacher conferences, almost all scheduled for the evenings, are sparsely attended, if attended at all.
There used to be an emphasis on accountability and responsibility for the parent, teacher and student.
When I was a teacher in 1975-76, several parents attended parent-teacher conferences, and they listened carefully to what I had to say about their child’s progress, or lack thereof. They expressed concern about what they needed to do to help their child improve.
Parents were responsible for making sure their children were completing homework, understanding what their child was being taught and making sure their child was abiding by the school’s protocols and rules.
The child was responsible for obeying the parent and the teacher. The teacher and parent formed a bond to accomplish a single goal: the student’s success.
That bond has slipped badly, and if the school district is to improve, parents, teachers and students must agree to work together.
In announcing charges against 11 students in Mahoning County Juvenile Court about their suspected involvement in the melee at East High School on March 8, Lt. Ramon Cox of the Youngstown Police Department’s Family Investigative Services Unit said he wants parents (emphasis added) involved so they are fully aware of what started the fights and they can have a hand in solving the issues that led to the fights.
“One of the reasons we filed the charges is so we can get the parents into court so they can have a hand in helping to rectify this situation,” Cox said.
Again, parental involvement is necessary to help stem the tide of apathy, failure and disappointing academic results.
Parents have to make time to ensure their children are receiving the best education possible. Those who are, I appreciate what you have done and are doing in your fight for your child’s academic well-being.
For those who aren’t, however, I have a simple question: Why not?
I would like to know why you don’t know when your child is supposed to bring home a report card.
I want to know why you wait until a crisis occurs before you speak up. I want to know why you are not complaining to the school board that your tax dollars that support the district are not producing the desired results of excellence.
If school board members are not doing the job, why aren’t you making time to go vote them out of office? When was the last time you attended a board meeting?
Again, this is a call for those parents not doing their job.
Yes, the record shows the school board has failed over the years to turn around the failing grades the district has received on the state report cards.
But parents and taxpayers can’t be absolved, either.
Dr. King also added this thought about education: “It seems to me that education has a twofold function to perform in the life of man and in society: The one is utility and the other is culture. Education must enable a man to become more efficient, to achieve with increasing facility the legitimate goals of his life.”
Ernie Brown Jr., a regional editor at The Vindicator, writes a monthly minority-affairs column. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org