Thursday, July 20, 2006

High crime, blame DCPS

At least that's what the Times Metro columnist Tom Knott is doing. It seems he feels that a lot of the blame for the District's recent uptick in crime can be placed on the District's public schools.
The corrosive power of the city's public school system is well-documented. The system seems impervious to reform, no matter the best intentions of one superintendent after another.

It is a system that has been a source of consternation since the days of Mayor Walter E. Washington. It is a system that has been studied and analyzed and lavished with tax dollars. The gains have been negligible.

The city's per-pupil expenditures are among the highest in the nation, while its test scores are among the nation's lowest.

It does not help that public schools in urban environments more and more are saddled with responsibilities that used to be in the domain of the traditional family.

Single-parent families are hardly the exception these days, which merely increases the importance of the neighborhood school.
I have to say I'm just not buying it; the school system doesn't deserve that much blame. Yes, the District's public schools are bad, but to expect a school system, even a spectacularly good one, to somehow compensate for inadequate parenting is simply folly. Yes, a quality, nurturing school system can do wonders for children, but it is not a substitute for decent parenting. While the school district may be a dysfunctional mess a good many of its teachers pour their hearts and souls into their job day after day to help improve the life of their students. Any failures in that regard haven't been for the lack of trying.

The simple fact is any child's home life is going to have an order of magnitude greater influence on his or her growth as a person than their school is. Are schools important? You betcha. Should they be quality, well administered institutions? Absolutely! Does a quality education improve a person's quality of life? Undoubtedly. But can a great school fully provide what sub-par parenting withholds from a child? Sadly, in most cases, it won't even come close.

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