Schools can't make up for irresponsible parenting [Letter]

I agree with 99 percent of Baltimore County school teacher and commentator Brenda Payne's open letter to state Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler criticizing his TV ad regarding teacher quality ("Dear Mr. Gansler," May 20). The problem with her article is that she didn't hit hard enough on the causes of inferior schools.

Mr. Gansler is right insofar as there are some teachers who are better than others, and it would be desirable to reward and promote the better ones and try to improve or weed out the weaker ones. But the quality of the teachers is the least important reason why some school systems don't perform as well as others. The amount of funding is also not so important as some "progressives" would have us believe.

It is the support system in those homes that is the biggest determinant of school performance.

Most teachers would prefer to teach where the risk of being assaulted in the classroom is smaller. So if they have an offer from a suburban district and one from Baltimore City, they may choose the former to reduce the chance of injury on the job. This is one reason better teachers gravitate away from urban areas.

Also, schoolchildren whose parents were adolescents or teenagers when they brought them into this world are not going to be as well-prepared as those who were born to more mature parents. There is probably a positive correlation between the age of parents and their household income as well, so that older parents are more likely to be able to afford to feed and clothe their children to get them ready for school.

The problems of children born to unqualified parents don't stop with education, either. And they don't stop with the extra burden on social programs and financial support systems of the government. They tragically include the far greater likelihood that these children will become criminals and cause physical harm to others, be they innocent citizens or their declared enemies in gang or drug wars.

A startlingly high proportion of cities' financial, educational, and crime problems can be traced to irresponsible parenting, i.e. parents who are too young to be responsible guardians of their children. It amazes and angers me that this fact is glossed over by so many journalists, politicians and other social observers.

Matt Beverungen

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