I was thumbing through the current Business Week magazine and found an article entitled “Going Beyond Head Start,” authored by Christopher Farrell. The article highlighted the results of a focus group study that separated 64 low-income African-American children ages 3 to 4 and worked with them to give them an academic head start. 40 years later, the children, now full-grown adults, are compared to children from similar circumstances in the effort to show the impact of early interventions into the lives of these children. Noted businessman and philanthropist Bill Gates, among others, is pouring millions into efforts of this nature, partnering with nonprofit organizations to give these kids a true head start.
At the risk of sounding ungrateful for the efforts made on the behalf of the children, I was shocked and saddened by the criteria by which this 'intensive work' was deemed successful. The children in the focus group were compared to their peers according to the following categories:
· met basic school requirements at 14
· regularly completed homework at 15
· arrested 5+ times by age 40
· earned $20,000+ at age 40
Is this all that society expects for a child who doesn’t come from much by the world’s standards? I don’t mean to make light of the plight of a kid from the ‘hood’; up until the age of 10, I was a kid from the hood myself. Also, we interact regularly with children from different socioeconomic backgrounds through our church, so I speak not as a suburban mom who has no clue what these kids face daily. Yet, who knows better than the African-American that what you come from ultimately has no affect on where you can go? Since when did it become a mark of success to say, “Well, I passed the basic skills test and I didn’t go to jail that often”? Why are the expectations so low?
Ultimately, what these kids lack the most is a sense of self worth, which was how Jesse Jackson parlayed the phrase “I am somebody” into a societal mantra. While dollars are being invested for their academic progress, I pray that someone is speaking and believing Jeremiah 29:9-11 and Ephesians 3:20 for them. Attitude does affect altitude, and with all respect to Bill Gates and others, the promises of the Lord God Almighty are the words that will pierce them at the very core of who they are and break the cycle of socioeconomic poverty.
Finally, this was a pearl of wisdom from the article: these new approaches combine ‘high-quality care and low child-to-teacher ratios, plus parental involvement.’ Sounds like homeschooling to me, huh?