There's widespread recognition that education creates opportunity. But schools are often expected to provide much more than just education for kids struggling with poverty. So what are the effects of that expectation? Are kids getting watered-down educations and watered-down social services as schools struggle to do both?
Well hello there! How have you been? It's been a while since my last post – three months, to be exact. I've been out on maternity leave and just got back to work and I have to say, I have a newfound respect for single parents.
Portrait of a family that overcame obstacles. Jamie Alexander, second from right, credits her Grandma Bobbie Lee, far right, with stepping in to help raise the kids when her mom, third from right, struggled through addiction.
Stories on State of Opportunity are all about ways to help disadvantaged kids find success in life. But when you meet a successful adult who grew up disadvantaged, they have a story that is like many others.
They didn’t get where they are by accident. They worked hard, of course, but usually, they also had some help. And often, that help can be traced back to one person who decided to make a difference.
Today, we're starting an occasional series about the people who make that decision. We’re calling this series, "One Person Who Cared." To share your own "One Person Who Cared" story, click here.
I met Jamie Alexander a couple of years ago. She’s a social worker for a program in Grand Rapids called Strong Beginnings, which helps African-American moms have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.
But on the car ride to one of her client’s homes, Alexander told me her own story.
"My mom was a drug addict, an alcoholic," Alexander said. "And my dad was not around."
For the rest of this week and next, we're preparing for our upcoming call-in show.
We've focused a lot on schools and education because it's such a huge part of children's and parents' lives. After all, after age five, that's where kids spend most of their time and have formative experiences.
But when it comes to answering the big questions, do we rely too much on schools? What solutions do we overlook when we put all our eggs in the education basket?
One in four of Michigan's children lives in poverty conditions.
Former State of Opportunity intern extraordinaire Gabrielle Emanuel recently did a story for NPR that resonates with events in Michigan. Emanuel takes a look at states that provide options for families with more than two parents involved in a child's upbringing.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation created an index of child-well being indicators, broke the results down by race, then ranked each state. This chart represents scores for African-American child well-being. Michigan is all the way on the right, third worst in the nation.
Credit Annie E. Casey Foundation, Race for Results report
The report is part of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count series. Kids Count tracks a number of indicators – things like birthweight, school test scores, poverty level, and college attendance.
This new report includes 12 indicators in all, and they’ve been combined to come up with an index score for overall child outcomes. Those scores were then broken down by race, and each state was ranked.
Like many other college-educated, NPR-listening, middle-class white parents in America, I've read the latest cover story in The Atlantic, "The Overprotected Kid." In it, Hanna Rosin argues that American parents put too much emphasis on safety, and it's killing kids' creativity and courage.
The solution Rosin offers is a more adventurous kind of play, a kind of play that is possible in an entirely different kind of playground. The example she gives is an "adventure playground" known as The Land in Great Britain's North Wales:
The Land is a playground that takes up nearly an acre at the far end of a quiet housing development in North Wales. It's only two years old but has no marks of newness and could just as well have been here for decades. The ground is muddy in spots and, at one end, slopes down steeply to a creek where a big, faded plastic boat that most people would have thrown away is wedged into the bank. The center of the playground is dominated by a high pile of tires that is growing ever smaller as a redheaded girl and her friend roll them down the hill and into the creek.
Before Aurora Ducket was even born, her mom Angela signed up for every program she could.
"I did the MOMS program through Spectrum Health," she told me. "I really liked them a lot. They would come to my house. They would listen to the baby’s heartbeat. They would give me pamphlets upon pamphlets of what to expect, different things that I could do."