Kindergarten is too late.
If you’re going to save inner-city kids from academic and social failure, you’re going to have to move them long before kindergarten.
This is in response to a newspaper columnist who recently called on the suburban school districts of Monroe County, New York, to accept each year, as 10 percent of their incoming kindergarten class, children from the inner city.
The assumption is that the educational and social disparity between suburb and city is caused by suburban privilege and city victimization, that it is somehow something in the classroom – as opposed to the homes and cultures – that explains the different outcomes.
The assumption, of course, is nonsense. It seeks to externalize responsibility and internalize victimhood.
It plays upon the same themes of race polarization that have made great careers for some activists and journalists, but done nothing to improve social understanding or outcome. In fact, they have typically done just the opposite, by building an anger and resentment against suburban whites by urban blacks, and by fostering a powerlessness based in the argument that all of one group’s woes are caused by the other group’s successes.
When you say that my situation is caused by someone else, you take from me the power to improve my situation. You make me not the master of my own destiny, but the slave of someone else’s choices.
And that’s crap.
So, sadly, is the notion that switching classrooms at age 5 will change outcomes for children.
The reality is that by the time a child enters kindergarten, most of the foundation of that child’s life and character have already been laid. Children do not arrive as blank slates on the first day of school, they come loaded with the lessons of the five most fundamentally formative years of their lives. They are already deeply imprinted with parental and cultural injunctions which will do much to determine their educational and social success.
For good or ill.
Children of a stable, two-parent home with an employed parent, where good values and conduct were taught, where education was valued, and a structure and schedule were held to, where there were bedtimes and regular meals and healthy relationships, where the safety of love and protection were present, will fare better than children who are the product of different environments.
Youngsters who have been read to and counted with and prayed for will have an advantage that is not reflected in either their address or their income. Children who are raised with love and nurture will prosper where those who have known anger and chaos won’t.
The template of function or dysfunction is laid down early, long before kindergarten, and a suburban classroom cannot supplant the imprint of urban upbringing.
Clearly, upbringing and family environment or culture are not determined by geography. Suburban homes can be failed and urban homes can be successful. But there are trends and tendencies, and these are reflected in any number of demographic and sociologic statistics – including those related to educational outcome.
And a long bus ride to a different community and school won’t change that.
Only a change in the home and in the culture will.
But that shifts the responsibility back to the home and community, and it kills the narrative of victimhood. It goes against the progressive paradigm of race and culture. It says that I, not my neighbor, am the source of my problems.
But it also says that my future is mine, that I steer my own ship, that I can rise or fall on my own merits and choices. That principle is true for individuals, communities and cultures.
It is a truth which offers the only hope there is for either educational or social success.
When it comes to educational success, it’s not the school you go to, it’s the home you come from. Recognizing that, and demanding more from the home as a consequence, is the path forward.
The columnist’s suggestion is cute, and consistent with progressive, Marxist ideology, but it is neither productive nor insightful.
Because kindergarten is too late.
And if you want suburbanites to fix urban problems, you need to send city kids to the suburbs long before kindergarten.
You need to send them at birth.