I live in Philadelphia. My kids spent their first 9 years of school, including Kindergarten, at Catholic schools and all have attended or do attend public high school. One needs the autistic support that Catholic schools simply do not offer The other two chose magnet schools and received an education we could not afford in a comparable private school.
There has been a lot of talk lately about the education funding crisis in Philadelphia, a crisis which would not exist if parents would simply raise their kids rather than expect the school district, the teachers and the taxpayers to do it for them. Public schools in Philadelphia can be a violent place to try to learn. Not all of the schools, mind you. There are some very good ones. The school my oldest graduated from is competitive on every level with the best private schools in the country. But not every child can attend a magnet school, so what happens to them? They are forced to attend school with a generation of children who have practically raised themselves, children who think it's normal to slap an adult or punch someone in the face as soon as look at them.
In one school, a child was suspended for punching a pregnant teacher in the stomach. Do you know what one of our lovely school administrators had the nerve to say? "Kids will be kids."
I don't know about you, but if any of us had hauled off and punched any adult in the stomach, let alone a pregnant teacher, my father wouldn't have waited for the cops to arrest us, he would have done it himself.
One day last year while still working in Center City, I had to run an errand at lunch time and I passed two women waiting for the bus with a child no older than 2. I don't know what happened but I had no sooner passed them when I heard a loud slap and the child wailing his head off. I don't know what he did, but his grandmother decided it deserved a slap so loud, it made me jump nearly out of my skin. Again, I ask: what on earth could a two-year old possibly do that would warrant slapping him period, let alone that hard?
Someday, that child will be in school and when he has a disagreement with someone, or someone says or does something to him he doesn't like, I guarantee you he's going to react the way his grandmother did - with physical violence. Children like him don't need video games because they're raised with violence at such an early age, they cease to recognize it as such. That's why they commit violence against random innocent people on the streets - because they're so desensitized to it.
I can't even tell you what the statistics are, but way too many children in Philadelphia's public schools are products of single-family homes. It used to be that grandmothers helped raise the kids while the mother went to work, but as the grandmothers get younger and younger, it happens with less frequency. A public school teacher whose children swam with mine recounted the heartbreak of watching a five-year-old in her kindergarten class fend for himself each day. Somehow, he managed to dress himself with whatever he could find in the house and travel to school alone. The meals he got in school were the only meals he got all day. Repeated complaints to the Department of Human Services elicited no change. All the money in the world spent on this child's education will not amount to a dime so long as he lives in a home environment like that.
The mayor of this city had an idea that putting a tax on sugary drinks would be a good way to raise money for the school district. I personally had no problem with it. ( If you're going to tax something, it ought to be something that has no health benefit whatsoever, but that's just my opinion.) The Teamsters Union stopped him, so instead, now our property taxes will go up. I can't complain too much because at least I use the school district. How about the parents who don't? How about the parents who work three jobs to be able to afford a private or Catholic school education so their kids don't have to get beaten up by their fellow students? How is it fair to them?
What Philadelphia needs more than anything is a program that helps children realize early on the importance of a two-parent home and the consequences of pre-marital sex. Look at how many children have siblings that do not even call the same man their father. The cycle perpetuates itself, and the familiar cry is heard time and time again: the schools don't have enough money. No, what they don't have is enough responsible adults to parent the children they send to school each day. And until they do, there won't be enough money in the world to educate children in a measurable and meaningful way.
It's the truth, and someone needs to tell it.