EDUCATION: More than job-training

U.S. Educators Need to Acknowledge Reality of Unteachable Children

double-deckerLondonD bus burning in 2011 youth riots
The 2011 August riots in the UK resulted in looting, arson, and the death of five people.

The riots tearing through English cities right now (2011) should serve as a scary reminder to Americans that we have our own huge underclass of poorly-educated youth with the same explosive potential to brutalize law-abiding citizens while police, constrained to treat law-breakers humanely, helplessly look on.

The popular wisdom is that, given enough love, patience, and exposure to conventional publicly-supported education, every child in the country must come to a state of responsible citizenship.

Clearly that’s not the case.

Continuing to pretend that every child who comes to public school is teachable by conventional means is suicidal.

Children come to school with different cultural and emotional baggage. Children from criminal homes bring criminal attitudes. Children from abusive homes bring fear and anger. Children who come to school undernourished bring an inability to concentrate on intellectual pursuits. Children from ethnic homes bring, in addition to a language handicap, ethnic baggage about the relative value of girls and boys, book learning, and people from other ethnic groups.

Statistics released in my state this week indicate that 13.7% of the under-18 population live in non-parental homes. Grandparents and other relatives take the place of parents in most of the cases, but a large proportion live in foster care with strangers.

Census figures for 2010 show my state with 711,475 inhabitants under the age of 18. Of those, 97,303 were not living with their parents, a figure up from 78,658 in 2000.

Where are the parents? Some have been rendered useless by drug addiction. Some are incarcerated. Some have left home in an effort to find work. Some are too mentally or emotionally deficient to function as adults. Whatever the reason, close to 100,000 boys and girls are growing up with the emotional pain of having been abandoned by their parents. And these are the figures for one lightly-populated state. Contemplate for a moment the MILLIONS of children growing up like that in all 50 states.

Children are easy to ignore, but continuing to ignore the growing underclass of the children of absent parents is to add fuel to the fire that is going to erupt when they are grown men and women. Marginalized as children, they will not embrace the same values and goals of the (mostly) law-abiding population.

News flash: State officials can stop beating their drums about providing college opportunities for more students. The students who have received an adequate primary and secondary education will get themselves to college one way or another. Universities already have an excess of students who are “sent” there without any notion of what they are supposed to do when they get there.

The existing approach to education that plunks every entering child into undifferentiated classrooms, regardless of home environment, is dangerously short-sighted. The practice ensures that children who come to school with limited vocabularies and cultural experience will progress through the grades becoming more and more alienated from what we think of as “mainstream” values.

Take a good look at those hooded barbarians in the news coverage of the English youth riots. Millions of our own are waiting in the wings.

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