Monday, October 03, 2005

The Father Factor

So where are they? The fathers that is.

Today's Tennessean has a lengthy report with this hot button headline: "Black students have highest offense rate". In a week that included the comments of Former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett the new week brought no relief from that muddied mess.

Some clarity to that issue was presented by the National Review when their Andrew C. McCarthy wrote:

He [Bennett] was dealing with life as it currently is — a life in which it is true not only that blacks commit crimes at a rate higher than the national average but that blacks are more likely to be victimized by crime than any other identifiable group.
And so here we have a full page of this morning's newspaper saying something very similar. I made an immediate connection to something I read over the weekend from Charles Murray at the Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal

Why has the proportion of unsocialized young males risen so relentlessly? In large part, I would argue, because the proportion of young males who have grown up without fathers has also risen relentlessly. The indicator here is the illegitimacy ratio--the percentage of live births that occur to single women. It was a minuscule 4% in the early 1950s, and it has risen substantially in every subsequent decade. The ratio reached the 25% milestone in 1988 and the 33% milestone in 1999. As of 2003, the figure was 35%--of all births, including whites. The black illegitimacy ratio in 2003 was 68%. By way of comparison: The illegitimacy ratio that caused Daniel Patrick Moynihan to proclaim the breakdown of the black family in the early 1960s was 24%.
I've read about this same sad state of affairs in other publications for years and have watched several organizations strive valiently to turn the tide. I've watched some single moms do the same. So the further I read into this morning's Tennessean article the harder I looked for the word father. I never found it. There were plenty of charts and graphs comparing grades, race and schools but no where did anyone ask serious questions about home life. The closest thing to considering the lack of fathers in the lives of these children was this quote from Kenneth Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services. He said:

"Let's look at the home," said Trump, who also pointed to poverty as a factor. "The real question is what type of discipline are children getting at home." It was no surprise to him, however, that males are responsible for most of the serious offenses in Tennessee because it's like that everywhere.
And it looks like the principal of Maplewood High, Darwin Mason, has a clue:

"A huge disproportion of teachers are white femails and, while I don't think the overwhelming majority have any ill will, they may not understand young men and they may become more intimdated by than a male teacher,"

I understand that intimidation. I understand that lack of undersanding. My own experience raising a son is that there came a point in my son's life when it became abundantly clear that it was now time for this mother to back down and let papa lead in the son rearing. While my son clearly loves and honors me there is no denying that he needed to hear from and see demonstrated by his father certain things that his mom just couldn't provide. I was raised in a very male dominated household as the only daughter. I spent two years in the Army. I've spent much of my life in male dominated jobs. I've been married to a man for 20 years. But for much of that time what rolls around in my brain is "What was he thinking?" There is a reason that women default to saying "It's a guy thing."

So where are the guys? Where are the fathers of these boys who are getting into trouble? I hope the Tennessean will take this report a step further and ask that same question. These children are too important to leave that stone unturned. Where are the fathers?


Cappy said...

I don't know where they are in your neck of the woods, but I can identify several that have been told to take a flying leap at a rolling doughnut by the moms and Domestic Relations Court!

Kay Brooks said...

I've no doubt there are plenty of moms that would tell the father's to take a flying leap. But again, every child has two parents and each ought to have rights and each ought to step up to that responsibility. Frankly, when you lie down together, so to speak, you really have to be willing to walk together for the sake of the child. I'm sure few of us consciously think of that in the heat of the moment and this huge mess is the result.

I have a hard time believing that the court actually told a father to stay away from their child/ren barring some extraordinarily bad behavior--which ought to put the fellow in prison, one would think. A court actually ordered a dad to not do the dad things of teaching, disciplining, loving them? Told them not to interact with the school system on their child's behalf? Told them not to teach their child how to be a responsible member of society?

That just seems to impossible to believe. I don't intend to call you a liar--just can't wrap my brain around that.