In writing“The Story of Kennett:Shaping our future one child at a time,”Joan Holliday and I saw how high a priority the town had for what Jake Moore, Vice-Principal of the Kennett Middle School, refers to as, “Becoming the best version of yourself.”
There are bumps in the road that can even derail that journey and they are not easy to address. People don’t like to talk about them yet, they threaten the kids and can keep them from becoming the best version of themselves.
Today our concerns tend towards the student’s ability to keep up with distance learning in this time of COVID. The question that is being asked---“Can the teachers even teach using the technology?” But my concern is more fundamental---“Do the kids have a nurturing family?”
Statistically half the kids are being raised by a single parent. This is not to say there is anything wrong with that, but it’s harder with just one bread winner.
I remember a friend was describing the growth of his family. He said they started out “double teaming” their first child, but then when number two came along, they had to go “man to man”. And when the third child was born, they had to use a “zone defense.”Each kid was exponentially harder to take care of than the last, and that’s with two parents.
It is not just about feeding and clothing and reading to them at night. What about teaching them how to cope and plan for the future? Some of the immigrant families don’t realize how important education is to their children’s “success” in life. The parents are doing well, even without finishing middle school so they pass on the message that you don’t need to finish high school and you certainly don’t need to go to college when you could be working and making money.
In my day, it wasn’t all a bed of roses either. I was in high school when the Rolling Stones wrote a song called “Mother’s Little Helper”, all about Benzodiazepines, or Valium. It alleviates social anxiety and quickly became the most widely prescribed drug in the world.
Today’s Moms are better educated, have their own careers, and are freer to get out of bad marriages.
Children having children was a major hit to my class, usually ending up in a shotgun marriage. Today we have programs to address this issue. One graduating 6th grade class in Philly was given a free college education by the commencement speakers, the golden ticket to a successful life.
But almost a third of them were already too far behind in school to be able to catch up and go to college. The class had 36 babies by graduation. Although, a number of the young women went off to college and nursing school with their kids in tow. It was a bump in the road, but not necessarily a derailer.
The success of this philanthropy dramatically changed the life outcomes of at least half the class and created so much wealth in their lives and the world. I wish I could do that.
Mental health is an issue. I’ve seen depression destroy a young person’s life. The education gauntlet is not easy. Today almost 20% of the boys have been diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (HDHD) by their teens and may be on Ritalin or Adderall.
Growing up in Kennett,I was fortunate that drugs weren’t an issue. I was told drugs were the rich school districts’ problem; our kids could only afford beer. Learning how to drink was a big deal. I feel fortunate that I didn’t have to deal with alcohol until college.
At that time, the way you learned how to drink was by experimenting until you drank too much and then saying, “I’m not going to do that again.” It happened to me the winter of my freshman year. I will be eternally grateful to my friends from the 5th floor of East Halls “A” who cleaned up after me and put me to bed. They had learned how to drink in high school.
In 2017, Pennsylvania was 3rd in the country for overdose deaths from drugs. Only Ohio and West Virginia killed more of their young people on a per capita basis with deaths from the Opioid and Meth epidemic. Are we getting better?
I talked to Chief of Police, Gerald R. Simpson of the Southern Chester County Regional Police Department and he showed me data that DUI’s were up in 2020 in spite of a drop off in traffic and Narcan usage (a miracle drug to combat drug overdoses) was up more than 500 percent from 2018 and 2019.
And then, the Chief talked about another silent menace I hadn’t even thought about. But that is for another time.