School choice and family planning are two topics I would love to hear discussed in my community because they are at the foundation of our futures. However, I want that discussion to take place around a discussion table sixty or seventy years ago.
A photo of my father and his fraternity brothers meeting at the local Black college hangs in my mother’s den. The organization wore Black and Gold and he was old enough to actually know founders personally but it could have been a meeting of any Black fraternity or sorority of that time because they were all committed to moving the race forward. You can see the steely determination in their eyes: we as a people would have the opportunity to learn, earn and prosper in this great nation and the sky would be the limit once those doors of opportunity opened.
If we had a time machine or a portal to the past (like a smart phone app), we could tell these gentlemen that we were from 2012 and that a Black man was in the White House…a Black man without a mop. Since most of the men in that picture were college professors or public school educators, I want to know their opinions on school choice.
Today, we recognize that public school K-12 education needs a top to bottom overhaul. I personally think that the teachers enter the profession ready to teach and that the facilities are generally acceptable in my area. For a myriad of reasons, some of the kids just aren’t ready, willing and able to learn. I think the foundation of education is discipline or obedience learned at home and church.
Those guys in that photo didn’t question their parents in their generation and neither did we in my generation. Today, I hear kids ask their parents “What?” and “Why?” with a tone that would have never happened in my day. One of the men in that photo was likely the dentist that my father would have taken me to see after he knocked my teeth out for saying “What.”
We should discuss parents having a tax credit or voucher to put their children in the best quality educational situation. When schools in the South were integrated, White private schools popped up in every county. But, I can remember the dedication of the educators from the all-Black schools. A period of “separate but equal” would have been fine with many Blacks because they wanted fairly funded schools more than forcing us to attend school with people who thought of us wrongly.
When we debated school choice as congressional staffers in the 1990s, I would always argue that private schools would cherry-pick the best students and those remaining in the public schools would be students from families that couldn’t afford to get out. If the best 20% opted for private schools, the worst 20% should have a voucher to attend a special school after getting kick out of regular school.
Public policy can’t solve the education problem because the ultimate problem is that some people are having children before they are prepared to raise and nurture them. To me, people shouldn’t get married until they are around 24 years old and they should then wait 24 months before having kids (a waiting period to ensure that the marriage is viable.) Before 24 years of age, people could be finishing their education and training, moving up in the workplace and having fun socially. Children should come into the mix when folks are ready to be parents like those Alphas in that old photo. Instead, we have kids having kids and early grade teachers are half educators and half parents.
Current conservatives trip me out with talk of abortion and welfare. The guys around that table never envisioned people having the government deeply involved in their lives. They were concerned more with anti-lynch and opportunity. The conservative men in that photo would have a lot to say about the long-term effect of LBJ’s policy that would come in a decade or two.
A recent study indicates free birth control dramatically reduces abortion and teen pregnancy. Since the far Right conservatives are rightfully concerned with governmental spending, they should know that abortions and public assistance goes down if fewer pregnancies occur in the first place. The guys in that picture could discuss the wrongness of abortion and premarital sex as well as the wrongness of hungry children and struggling families. Reasonable people know that you can’t always push your faith’s beliefs into the public policy of a diverse nation.
The achievement-oriented Blacks of my fathers’ generation would be disappointed to learn that music is crime and sin-based and hip hop shapes the mindset of our youth more than parents and church. If those guys in that picture were transported into current times, they would figure out a way to get the best education for their families. Unfortunately, those pioneers in education would be compelled to seek schools for their families that kept their kids away from certain elements without regard to race. Oh, I would teach government and tennis at an all-male school that brought academic heat all day every day–a place where gentlemen were built.
Teaching the guys in that photo was easy because they were enthusiastic about learning; it was learn or be an unofficial slave during Jim Crow. If they had a window on today at that table, they would be flabbergasted with the way our youth are carrying themselves and disappointed with the squandering of opportunities.
I enjoyed hearing this speech by Kappa founder Edward G. Irvin.