Helping hand needed for less fortunate

Published 6:30 pm Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Several years ago, I wrote a column titled, Underclass Needs Help Entering Mainstream. It was a “special” to the Atlanta Constitution, in which I stated that unless we extend a helping hand to the so-called underclass and the unfortunate, in inner city environments, America’s future would be grim.

As can be imagined, the piece generated considerable criticism. Many readers complained that the government has already given too much to the so-called underclass in the form of welfare and other entitlement programs. They believed that the entitlement programs benefited only those who were lazy, shiftless and who did not want to work or to become productive citizens.

A disproportionate number of readers were convinced that if you would only get rid of these programs, persons benefiting from them would eventually get a job and save taxpayers billions of dollars each year. In the 2016 elections, entitlement programs again became major issues and topics of concern. Some candidates, intent on inciting voter discontent, promised that if you would just elect them to office, their first day on the job would be used to begin the process of dismantling entitlement programs.

Is helping inner-city schools just another entitlement initiative?

I do not think so. My piece for the Constitution covered the predicament that many major urban school students faced-not having sufficient role models to direct them in paths that are not fraught with difficulties related to breaking the law. To be honest, the majority of inner city youth do well, and avoid the pitfalls of engaging in criminal activities. In virtually every major city in the country, however, too many African-Americans have made criminal activity their chosen occupation, and essentially, terrorize the communities in which they operate.

The evidence is compelling. Cities across the country are desperate for initiatives designed to thwart inner city youth involvement in drugs and violence, which is spreading to small town America. The fact of the matter is that unless the so-called minority underclass is brought into the mainstream of society, we will continue to experience the tragedy of those who do not have, preying on those who do.

Research indicates that unconsciously, teachers have low expectations for inner-city and poor children (a belief also held among some teachers in non-urban school districts). The end result is a kind of “self-fulfilling prophecy.” We must begin again to believe that schools can make a difference. Schools — even small districts — should have the following:

  • A a clearly stated mission to raise students’ reading and mathematics test scores;
  • A method of instruction that requires teachers to have the same high standards for each student. Teachers should be evaluated and trained to alter any preferential attitudes toward students predicated on race, ethnicity or gender;
  • Active parental involvement
  • Support and participation from the business community.

Small school districts are not exempt are immune from what is happening in inner-city schools. If you look at the obsession our youth have with drugs, and sometimes violence, in virtually every community in America, it would not be difficult to surmise, incorrectly, that parents are losing control of their children. The fact of the matter is that with community and private sector support, we can develop strategies to prevent the potential academic decline of our schools.

****Dr. Glenn Dowell is an author and columnist who currently lives in Jonesboro, Georgia. 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