The "Parenting Gap"
3:57 PM, Oct 18, 2009 • By RACHEL ABRAMS
The Washington Post runs a depressing piece in Outlook today by Patrick Welsh, an Alexandria, Virginia high school English teacher who is struggling with the academic failures of his "virtually all-black class of 12th-graders." Mr. Welsh, who may risk being dismissed as a racist by the mafia of bad-policy education formulators, and disciplined by school administrators who are in their thrall, argues that you can throw millions of dollars at the problem, like oil onto flames, but until you get parents-and especially fathers-to care about the education and welfare of their children, nothing you do is going to help.
Of course, the story of inner-city school failure is nothing new. Pat Moynihan addressed it inter alia in 1965 in "The Negro Family: The Case for National Action," describing the "deep-seated structural distortions in the life of the Negro American" as a "tangle of pathology" arising from the absence of men from the family structure, and attributing it to the legacy of American slavery, which he called "profoundly different from, and in its lasting effects on individuals and their children, indescribably worse than, any recorded servitude, ancient or modern." Nor was Moynihan himself the first; he relied on a host of earlier studies to produce his own, including the pioneering work of the renowned African-American sociologist E. Franklin Frazier, who'd already observed in 1950 that
More than four decades-and four decades' worth of worthless, nay, harmful, policies-after the Moynihan Report, the situation is still calamitous, and social scientists continue to grapple with it. Kay Hymowitz, in her 2005 City Journal tour de force, "The Black Family: 40 Years of Lies," sounded a cautious note of hope after first limning the grim catalogue of ills besetting black communities:
But Patrick Welsh's students have yet to see any evidence of that uptick, and in the meantime there's a disturbing new wrinkle to the story. In answer to his asking them in frustration why they didn't study "like the kids from Africa," one student told him:
He was "stunned." And there is something stunning about it, over and above the intrinsic tragic truth of it, which is that these kids seem to have wrung out of the misery of absent parentage a new formulation for excusing themselves from living up to any expectations.