Today’s youth want to do good. I think of the run-ins with my son’s teachers, as I made my presence known in the hallways of my older son’s school. Visiting each of his teachers, I rediscovered that above all, he had a good heart. All his teachers told me this. I remember that instead of going on Spring break, his sophomore year, he was among a half dozen of his friends who chose to go to the Louisiana’s Ninth Ward, and during Thanksgiving last year he delivered food to various families with his school. Realizing this is his last year, I’ve visited his teachers this year, as I remember something else I discovered last year. Many of his teachers had good hearts too, but some think they know more than the parents. Watch these!
As they need to know is that I have a good heart too, so they can picture his dad when they wonder are they harboring a fugitive or a potential ambassador? Or wonder if they are helping me raise a statistic for our penal system or a solution to some of the dementia that seems rampant. A dementia that indicates that for many boys, their chances of going to jail, particularly if they are boys, outweigh their chances of graduating, unless they are lucky.
And as my mentor ‘Smiley’ told both our sons…they are lucky. Their family is in tact. Their mom and I don’t always agree, as she approaches menopause and I vacillate in and out of my mid-boomer crisis, but we are still together after 25 years. Both our boys live in the house where they were born. They have a legion of teachers and mentors around them who want them to have a good life. With a dad and mom who went to college, a mother who’s at home because we planned it so she doesn’t have to work, with these odds, you’d think they could beat the system. But it’s not that clear cut.
Our older son, Jeremy has his peers, many of whom he’s brought home to witness a value system some are unfamiliar with. He has his peers who aspire to greatness but are resentful of what they have to do to get it. He has his peers who value thugism over his peers who aspire to college and therein lies a continued battle that encroaches on what we have tried to build. He has peers who don’t have a mom and dad at home, while others have a mom and dad at home when they are not working. He has choices to make, and it’s the village of people his mom and I try to surround him with, our peers, who stress to him that it’s his choice to beat the odds.
I remember when our younger son, Myles, got his first ‘B’. We’d given him choices, and allowed him to decide what was important, and though he felt he could play computer games and keep up with his schoolwork, he had a wake-up call, and a consequence. He can’t play his game without limitations now. He made us make the choice when he failed to live up to his promise—he could do it all. Unlimited computer is gone! Homework is no longer an afterthought. It’s hard to realize you have to work hard to be able to play hard the games you want to play. And it’s sometimes hard for parents to make their kids live up to their commitments.
I don’t know how you view the school year, whether as a respite from all the time you had to spend engaging yourself with your children. I’m not sure how you look at today’s youth, but if you have not given much of what I’ve mentioned above any thought, you need a wake up call. Being a dad today is hard with all the forces that want to convince society dads aren’t important. You are! And if you are black dad, look at some of the statistics I’ve shared before, it might wake you up.
Only 22% of black males finish college within six years. Of the students suspended in school, 32% are black. Black males are twice as likely to be suspended as whites are. If your son graduates from high school, he will be among the 41% that do. That’s only part of the equation, and if you have two black boys like we do…doesn’t that mean they are competing with each other? I hope they realize why their mom and me on their backs as they choose potential professions, not to mention the other people in the village like Smiley.
Did you know Blacks make up 3.2% of the lawyers, 3% of the doctors and 1% of the architects? Factor in that many of these are black women you understand why many people are shocked to see their doctor is a Black male. Did you know that the net worth of average Black family in America is $6,100 compared to $67,000 for a white family? Remember now…we have overcome. Do any of you see your sons graduating in less than six years wearing a stethoscope or carrying a briefcase that belongs to him? Do you/? Did you also know that less than 50% own their homes and that of Blacks earning $100,000 annually 30% have ‘less than $5,000 in retirement savings?’
I mentioned peer pressure in school, where community leaders get together with the school administrators to encourage students to dress for success, by going to school one day a week or month, as if they were going to college. It’s a plan where students would see who had a similar picture of the future and could show they were determined to do something about it.
Another idea would be to have college days in school. On this particular day across the country, have those students who have plans to go to college dress as though they were going to a college interview. It’s not too much to ask. I’m sure everyone has a wardrobe that includes at least one ‘interview’ outfit. Let them do this once a week, or twice a month. Think about it, and I’ll talk about the benefits next week as you think about a potential doctor, lawyer, or even teacher in your house, and as boys become the men they see on the streets in their neighborhood. Present them a good image you men who are fathers.
“A child is an island of curiosity surrounded by a sea of question marks.”
from Always my Dad calendar
Archie Wortham, Ph.D.
Husband of Suzie
Father of Jeremy & Myles
Educator & Columnist