Patrick Welsh, who teaches in the Washington D.C, school system, has diagnosed the problem of poor academic achievement among black students: Making the Grade Isn’t about Race. It’s About Parents.

“Why don’t you guys study like the kids from Africa?”

In a moment of exasperation last spring, I asked that question to a virtually all-black class of 12th-graders who had done horribly on a test I had just given. A kid who seldom came to class — and was constantly distracting other students when he did — shot back: “It’s because they have fathers who kick their butts and make them study.”

Another student angrily challenged me: “You ask the class, just ask how many of us have our fathers living with us.” When I did, not one hand went up.

Educators are worried that black children are doing poorly in school because of unspecified “racism” or low expectations. Welsh demurs: 

But focusing on a “racial achievement gap” is too simple; it’s a gap in familial support and involvement, too. Administrators focused solely on race are stigmatizing black students. At the same time, they are encouraging the easy excuse that the kids who are not excelling are victims, as well as the idea that once schools stop being racist and raise expectations, these low achievers will suddenly blossom. 

Fathers have to be present in a home for children to succeed in life; the absence of a father makes it very difficult for a child to succeed. A child growing up in a middle-class community in which almost all children have fathers at home will benefit from this environment, even if he lacks a father. But when whole neighborhoods do not have a father in any home, working, disciplining, guiding, the result is inevitable: academic failure, violence, and out-of-wedlock pregnancy. 

But what can a government do about this? Some policies hurt the family, but churches are really the only way that men can be taught their responsibilities to be responsible fathers and not simply biological males. 

And of course men, especially young men, especially black young men, stay away from church, which they regard as a feminine environment: for women and little children, not for men. 

But all the churches, at least the main-line churches, including the Catholic Church, worry about is how to make more space for women in church – when women are already the vast majority of the congregations.

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