Dowell: What is happening with our children?

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Some years ago, I was interviewed on the popular Oprah Winfrey Show on the topic of “Corporal Punishment.” As I have reported in previous columns, I shared the stage with another person – a child psychologist and mental health professional – who believed that parents should not under any circumstances spank their children. Suffice to say, the audience agreed with me, that the government should stay out of the parenting business.

Put in succinct terms, we have over the years witnessed a retreat in parenting by the adage “spare the rod, spoil the child.” It was child advocate, Benjamin Spock, who believed that spanking children could lead to long term trauma in the child and even violent behavior. A pediatrician by profession, he influenced generations of parents and made his name a household word. Many of his colleagues, in fact, sarcastically referred to him as the “father of permissiveness.”

You know what?

Before he died, he had softened his position on spanking. This did not stop his critics, however, from believing that the post Spock movement has been characterized by unparalleled violence committed by juveniles around the country. School shootings resulting in mass carnage, unimaginable gang violence, and now, increasing incidents of parents being killed by their children or grandchildren.

It is the question that is being asked by community stakeholders around the country. It is obvious that the majority of our children in the United States are doing well and staying out of trouble. For those who are not, the cost in terms of money we invest in detention facilities, the loss of their productivity related to our economy, and the havoc they wreak in terms of murder and other heinous crimes is incalculable.

We must do better in addressing the problems impacting children in this country, especially black children. A cursory review of these problems reported by the Children’s Defense Fund reveal that:

• Black children are twice as likely to die before their 18th birthday as  white children.

• Black children arrive in kindergarten with low levels of school readiness than white children.

• Black children are 18 percent of preschool enrollment but 48 percent of preschool children receiving more than one out-of-school suspension.

• Each day 763 black high school students drop out. Black students are more than twice as likely to drop out as White students.

• A black child is confirmed abused or neglected every three-and-a-half minutes. In fact, every day a black child is killed by abuse or neglect.

The Defense Fund report also researched the subject of our children being funneled into prison pipelines. The findings are alarming:

•A black child is arrested every 68 seconds. More specifically, black children are more than twice as likely to be arrested as white children.

• Black children and youth make up 32 percent of children arrested and 40 percent of all children and youth in residential placement in the juvenile justice system.

In reporting on black children and gun violence, the Defense Fund report is not as shocking. It reveals the following:

• Gun violence is the leading cause of death among black children ages 1-19.

• Each day, three black children or teens are killed by guns. Black children and teens are nearly five times more likely to die from a gun than white children and teens and

• The number of black children and teens killed by guns between 1963 and 2010 is 17 times greater than the recorded lynchings of black people of all ages from 1882 to 1968.

What is happening to our children, black and white, has to become a part of the discussion to improve our country. Can we put the racial issues aside for the best interest of our future generation?

Dr. Glenn Dowell is an author and columnist who currently lives in Jonesboro. He has been a guest speaker on major college campuses, including having appeared on TV programs such as the Oprah Winfrey Show. He may be reached at