Saturday, June 18, 2011

Happy Fathers' Day: A Problem in American Education

WHEN PRESIDENT OBAMA TOOK OFFICE, I had high hopes that education policy would improve. I hoped he and Arne Duncan, his new Secretary of Education, would prove to be more realistic.

They couldn’t possibly be so naive as to believe No Child Left Behind was a success. It could only get better. Or so I thought.

You’d think President Obama—who grew up without a father—would know better; but Mr. Duncan goes around preaching at every turn that to fix education all we really need to do is find better teachers. Duncan makes it sound like the failings of our schools are entirely related to teachers.

We need to be realistic.

Sure, there are bad teachers. I’m up in Maine right now, at the start of a bicycle trip across the country. In the Bangor Daily News I see the kind of story that Fox News will highlight for the next two weeks. Rob Mocarsky, 41, a kindergarten teacher, recently pleaded guilty to a charge of “creating child pornography.” Now he faces fifteen to thirty years in a federal prison. The article explains that Mocarsky did a lot of dress-up activities with his students, pirates and fairies and such. At various times he managed to trick four little girls into staying after school, and took pictures of them in various costumes...and....well...he’s a rotten bastard.

By all means, let’s get rid of bad teachers; and let’s be sure we put people like Mocarsky in jail.

Preparing to start a bicycle trip across America.

BUT LET’S NOT FORGET THAT THERE ARE all kinds of problems in our schools that have their roots in the home, as well. That means we have to be honest about what school reform can do and what it cannot.

In the same paper today, another kindergarten teacher, Amy Lake, was in the news. Last week, her estranged husband shot her dead and also their two children. In the same paper, in a similar story, Leah Gordon, 9, and brother, Christian, 8, watched their father Nathaniel chase down their mother Sarah and shoot her too.

The question I keep coming back to when I see stories like this is: What school reform laws are going to address the needs of families like these?

At times recently the news on American fathers has been bleak.

In 1960 only 5% of children in America were born out of wedlock. In 2008 the figure was 41%. I’m a liberal, so I know that might not be the end of the world. But the problem for kids is that so many fathers are absent in their lives. A Pew Research Center study recently found that 27% of fathers with kids 18 or younger live away from at least one of their children and many of those fathers admit they haven’t seen their child in more than a year.

Way to go, dad!

Even worse, the poorest families are the most likely to have children born out of wedlock—and to have fathers who are absent. As a result, problems for poor children are compounded. For black children, 72% are born out of wedlock; for Hispanics, 59%; for white children, 37%. For fathers who don’t have a high school diploma the numbers are 65%, for those who graduate from high school, 51%, for fathers with a college degree, only 13%.

Really: if we wanted to fix our system of education the best place might be to start by teaching would-be-dads to use condoms.

At any rate, I wish every committed dad in America a “Happy Fathers’ Day,” no matter their race, creed or color.

P. S. I may not be updating my blog too often for a while. I'm bicycling across the United States to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

(If you would like to read about the trip go to:

If you would like to donate to help find a cure for type-1 diabetes please click HERE!

1 comment:

  1. For a liberal you certainly express how I feel about these same statistics, and I've always thought I was a person on the conservative side of political debate. Perhaps it's time for all people to consider the results of the actions of our politicians or local representatives on all people who they have pledged to help. This truly is not a Democrat Party or Republican Party problem (ie: who caused what) but a human problem that WE All have to solve - no matter who or what has created the problems in families, schools, etc. If we can find a way to work together - without wondering who may pay us more to think differently - maybe, there will be a way to find solutions; not divisions.