Education can change a life. Given its importance, why are so many black kids steering clear of it like the plague? We can't just blame the kids when teachers, schools, hardships, single-parent households and other things share responsibility.
We've provided kids with plenty of ways not to get a good education. We've invented mental conditions like ADD and ADHD to allow them to avoid hard work and dedication, saying, "It's not your fault, you have a reason for not paying attention." In my day, however, it was called just plain DUMB.
The problem is that we've gotten away from what school is all about - learning, both book learning and learning the lessons of life. Then there is discipline. Today, unfortunately, discipline is often called child abuse. I'm not talking about beating children, but instead old-fashioned discipline like when your father gave you a look and you knew to close your mouth. Or when any grown-up could take the place of your parents to make you straighten up your act. You would feel leather on your backside when it was needed, but usually the fear of it kept you in line. But today's kids have no fear of their parents.
Changes in our educational system and family life have come slowly and with little resistance from conservatives, who fear being labeled insensitive by liberals. Liberals, noting the change, invent more excuses and conditions to explain away the problems they have wrought. We need to take action again and solve our problems now while they are relatively small because future generations will continue along the paths we choose today.
We will only succeed in educating our kids if we stand up and demand our parental rights to raise, teach and discipline them. Furthermore, the government must set standards for our public school teachers and reduce the influence of the National Education Association teachers union. Also, someone must take responsibility when our kids don't learn. Whether it is the kids, teachers, parents or the government, someone must step forward to explain why the kids aren't learning and help find a solution.
Black leaders are demanding that black citizens be noticed and taken seriously in Hollywood, on Wall Street and in business across America. If that is to happen, we first need an education to be able to take advantage of opportunity. You can't be handed everything, and you must prove yourself worthy of things that come your way. And an education cannot wait.
Standing on the sidelines is no way to win a game. You must be in on getting an education from the beginning, waiting to seize your opportunity. If you're educated, ready and willing to do the job, opportunities in the game of life will abound for you.
We must teach our kids to prepare them for future opportunities. We must lead by example, letting them see us make our own dreams come true. We must be at the top of our game or striving to be better so we can demand the best from them. We cannot expect them to obey us if we do the opposite of what we say. Actions still speak louder than words. We must, at every turn, stress the good things that education will bring, showing what it has done for us. Or, in some cases, what it has not done and why.
Education, Education, Education - that must be our lesson for future
generations. We do this to make our children's lives better.
(E. LeMay Lathan is a member of the African-American leadership network Project 21 and author of the book The Black Man's Guide to Working in the White World. He can be reached at [email protected].)
Note: New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21.
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