Posts tagged ‘Chicago Public Schools’

Fathers Hold Key to Communicating with Troubled Teens

by: Jeffery M. Leving

Hilda Franco and the Chicago Freedom School have developed a program promoting outreach to children and teens caught in the crossfire of violence plaguing Chicago Public Schools. I applaud her initiative and agree that active communication with these children is a positive move in the right direction, but I would like to challenge Herald News readers to take this idea one step further.

As Chairman of the Illinois Council on Responsible Fatherhood (ICRF- http://responsiblefatherhood.com), I believe the best way to reach these teens is to teach their fathers how to communicate with their children. In the Riverdale neighborhood where Derrion Albert grew up, nearly 80% of households with children do not have a father present. Research shows that fatherless children are twice as likely to drop out of school, consistently score lower than average in reading and math, and are eleven times more likely to exhibit violent behavior. There are gender and economic barriers that must be overcome or these fathers will continue to be kicked to the curb. We need to go into this community to empower and educate these men on the importance of being actively involved in their children’s lives. We need to make sure that all fathers in all communities know that they have the legal right to request custody and visitation of their children regardless of their financial situation.

Incarcerated fathers are also victimized by the denial of equal protection. We need to go into the prison systems and give incarcerated fathers the same resources available to incarcerated mothers to help them parent their children both in and out of prison. While Illinois has a program in place giving incarcerated mothers access to their children through virtual visitation (ie: video conferencing), the same option is not provided to fathers. I co-authored the Illinois law giving judges the ability to award virtual visitation to non-custodial parents. Now that this law is in place, let’s implement a virtual visitation program for fathers through the Illinois Department of Corrections focused on the best interest of the child. As the goal, incarcerated fathers remain in contact with their children. Furthermore, during my visit to the Decatur Correctional Center, I learned that incarcerated mothers not only have access to virtual visitation with their children, but are also allowed to live with their babies in prison. The lack of similar programs for fathers is nothing short of institutionalized gender preference showing what little value our society places on the importance of paternal love and bonding.  This bias being perpetuated in our prisons not only illustrates the obstacles in place for fathers wanting relationships with their children, it tramples equal protection safeguards.

Until fathers and children everywhere engage in positive relationships, other proposed remedies to safeguard children from violence are just a band-aid on a gaping wound. As a community, we all need to actively search for a solution to this ongoing violence. I agree that giving teens a forum to express themselves to caring adults is invaluable and ICRF is committed to ensuring that every father in Illinois has the knowledge and resources to be there for their kids when they are needed most. But, we must never forget that any man’s loss of his child is a loss for us all.

Jeffery M. Leving

Chairman

Illinois Council on Responsible Fatherhood

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November 18, 2009 at 6:23 pm Leave a comment

Resolving the Boys Crisis in Schools

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A recent Chicago Board of Education report showed that girls enjoy a 63-37% advantage over boys in gaining admittance to Chicago’s eight selective-enrollment college prep high schools. In response, Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan and top administrators at Jones, Whitney Young and Brooks prep schools are advocating that schools consider “gender weighting.”  Yet to balance the scales by employing admissions preferences is misguided.  What’s needed instead is a rethinking of the way we educate, beginning at the earliest levels.

Many healthy, energetic, intelligent boys are branded as having behavior problems as soon as they begin school, and are punished and put on Ritalin or other drugs so they will sit still. Little thought is given to two obvious questions: How could a six or seven year-old be “bad”? And how could so many boys need drugs to function in school? Because schools and classrooms do not fit their educational needs, many boys disengage from school long before they ever reach the prep school level.

Many modern educational practices are counterproductive for boys. Success in school is tightly correlated with the ability to sit still, be quiet and complete paperwork and assignments, which are sometimes of questionable value. A “get tough” mentality—under which teachers give excessive homework lest they appear uncommitted or weak—has become a substitute for educators actually having a sound reason for assigning all the work they assign.

Many young boys are bodily kinesthetic learners who respond to hands-on lessons. The educational establishment finds this inconvenient, and thus largely ignores it. 

The trend against competition and the promotion of cooperative learning strategies run counter to boys’ natural competitiveness and individual initiative. Lessons in which there are no right or wrong answers, and from which solid conclusions cannot be drawn, tend to frustrate boys, who often view them as pointless.

Efforts to make schools gentler and to promote women’s writing, while understandable, have pushed aside the action and adventure literature, which boys have treasured for generations. In their place are subtle, reflective works, which often hold little interest for boys.

The dearth of male teachers–particularly at the elementary level, where female teachers outnumber male teachers six to one–is a problem for boys. The average teacher is a well-meaning and dedicated woman who always did well in school and can’t quite understand why the boys won’t sit still, be quiet and do their work like the girls do. Instead, boys need strong, charismatic teachers who mix firm discipline with an understanding and good-natured acceptance of boyish energy. And though it’s rarely mentioned, most teachers are weighed down by paperwork and secretarial labor, which limits the time they can spend planning creative, hands-on, boy-friendly lessons. 

Recess and physical education time allotted during the day are insufficient for boys’ needs, and the trend has been to reduce this time rather than to increase it. Pervasive fear of lawsuits has turned educators into guards vigilant to prevent any manifestation of natural boyishness outside the classroom from becoming the school district’s latest legal settlement payout.

The deterioration of vocational education also hurts boys. U.S. Department of Education data show that these programs suffered a sharp decline from 1982 to 1992 and never recovered. Vocational classes once started low and middle achieving boys on the path to careers as skilled tradesmen. They have now often been replaced by an asinine yet pervasive mantra that defines as successful only those who go to college and become doctors or lawyers. This mantra often disrespects boys’ blue collar fathers, who also happen to be their primary role models. In fact, to suggest that a boy pursue a career working with his hands leaves a teacher open to charges of harming students by encouraging low expectations.

The boy crisis in our schools is more than an educational crisis—it is also a significant public health issue.  Nearly nine million prescriptions of Ritalin are written for American children each year, most of them for boys between the ages of six and 12. According to a federal expert advisory panel, 10% of 10 year-old American boys are on Ritalin or similar drugs. In February the panel, which reviewed several dozen reports of deaths, heart problems, and toxic reactions associated with these drugs, recommended they carry a prominent ‘black box’ warning, the strongest warning for prescription drugs.

The gender weighting currently being pondered by Chicago’s educational establishment wouldn’t begin to solve these problems. Nor would it address the wide gender disparities that exist among low and middle achieving students. Boys don’t need admissions preferences—they need a system which meets their educational needs.

Jeffery M. Leving is one of America’s most prominent family law attorneys. He is the author of the book Fathers’ Rights: Hard-hitting and Fair Advice for Every Father Involved in a Custody Dispute. His website is www.dadsrights.com.

Glenn Sacks’ columns on men’s and fathers’ issues have appeared in dozens of America’s largest newspapers. Glenn can be reached via his website at www.GlennSacks.com or via email at Glenn@GlennSacks.com.

March 4, 2009 at 6:00 pm Leave a comment


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