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Education must start in the home

The teacher's letter is almost a year old, but it sticks in my mind as another school year approaches.

It's a reminder that changing superintendents or altering union contracts can only go so far in improving the Buffalo Public Schools.

There's another change that may be even more important: Getting parents to be real parents again.

The teacher said it best, if graphically at times, noting Buffalo teachers have the same certifications as those in more successful districts:

What is the difference then? If anything, I say it's a parental problem that has now become a school and a national problem.

She backed up her argument with examples that will be uncomfortable to many but that ring true to anyone who's been in any public venue where some parents and kids interact:

I've personally witnessed a mother say to her daughter, "B----, I will f--- you up if you drink after someone else." Also, they tell them to sit their black a---- down or I will slap the s--- out of you if you ask me that one more time.

If that's the communication kids are raised on, civil discourse in the classroom will have little impact.

So when we, as teachers, ask the students to do something in a nice way, they totally ignore us.

Then, when the child fails or gets suspended, the parent blames the teacher.

If they are constantly suspended, shouldn't the parents self reflect and ask themselves if perhaps THEY didn't do something right at home? But no, they pass the blame on us and say that "if we had better classroom control, the students wouldn't act like they do." If I'm not mistaken, aren't the students a reflection of what they learn at home?

The only honest answer is, "yes," even if it rubs some the wrong way or violates the outdated rule against airing dirty linen in public. My answer to that is the same as Bill Cosby's: Our dirty linen is already walking down the street at 3 p.m. every day for the whole world to see.

The teacher's letter was in response to my "Cultural correction is critical" column, written after the City Grill massacre, about the impact our coarsening culture is having on behavior on the streets. She sees the same impact in the classroom, and little learning will take place until that changes.

A significant first step could begin at 1 p.m. next Thursday when Ellicott Council Member Darius Pridgen kicks off a yearlong effort with a "Rally to Increase School Attendance" at his True Bethel Baptist Church, 907 E. Ferry St.

Pridgen, a former School Board member, is launching a campaign that will include lawn signs, radio ads, community conversations and monthly recognition of diligent students, along with help for families that need it.

"We have to make sure that our kids are in school and that they have the right attitude," he said.

The free community event will feature Judge Lynn Toler from TV's "Divorce Court," noted local educator Eva Doyle and other speakers, along with free school supplies.

It will mark the start of an ongoing effort to reverse a cultural tide and reinstill the value of education, using in a positive way the same marketing tools -- repetition, saturation and peer pressure -- that advertisers and rap artists have long used to our detriment.

The goal is to re-establish a cultural norm that values education "so it almost makes parents who are not doing the right thing ashamed," Pridgen said.

The focus on parents doesn't obviate the need for culturally relevant instruction or enlightened school leadership. It's simply the other side of the same coin. Teachers can't teach if kids aren't in class and if they aren't there to learn.

That seems so fundamental that it should go without saying. It's a measure of our decline that we now have to hold a rally to say it.


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