Carpe Diem, Changing the Culture of Privelege
By: Archie Wortham

“I’m for equality as much as the next person, but there are certain vocabularies that won’t change,” says Dr. Mieko Mitchell a noted psychologist and one of the principal characters in Jere Myles’ second book, ‘Murder Behind Closed Doors.’ People are pretty much set in their ways, and as Thoreau shares with us, “things do not change, we change.”

Malachi McAsh asks in Ken Follett’s book A Place Called Freedom, “If we are so fortunate, why do we need laws forbidding us to leave the village and seek other work.” Think about that question as you think about another question that might face our kids today, “If America is the land of opportunity…who decides when opportunity knocks?” These ideas can be recycled right into Myles’ novel, set in the 90s that talks about discrimination. It’s a backdrop for many of the things we are enduring today, whether it’s the job we have or the neighborhood we are allowed to live in. Don’t think we are that far beyond ‘A Raisin in the Sun.’ Money can’t buy everything, but education is still a premium investment for all of us.

These are good questions and should make us consider how we constrict ourselves by the things we do. If we don’t have the things we want, how can we get them? If we don’t live in the neighborhoods we want, what can we do to make that happen? If our kids are not scoring as high on standardized tests as we think they should, who should we be asking ‘why?’

You’ve heard me mention that our education system is failing our boys. The evidence is pervasive. Boys perform lower in the academic stock market than girls, and many educators seem unconcerned about the possible ramifications this might have as it ripples through the social and economic aspect of our country. More women are in the workforce than men now. Fewer young boys have a father figure in the home. Less than 14% of the teachers are men. It’s a growing trend of poor performance by men.

A trend that if we don’t stop and get more men to graduate from high school, we'll become the benefactors of a generation that earns less than we did, and we’ll live to see the cataclysmic effects lack of education will have on the median income of the average family. 'Failure' is a benign assignation that will be given to the baby boomers if we don’t find a way to strengthen our resolve. If we don't challenge our young men to achieve their dream, one day we all might wake up to nightmares of poverty, ignorance and mediocrity.

The initial questions I posed forces us to realize how unfortunate we are to live in a country where 40% of the households don’t have an adult male role model in the house. The quote should make us reflect over how we live in a country where male children of color have a greater chance of America providing them an education behind prison walls than the hallowed ivy walls of a college.

But if we have an inherent right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, as inheritors of this ‘culture of privilege,’ I wonder why our beneficent government encourages male absences by withholding subsistence checks to households where there is something resembling an adult male helping? Another way to look at Follett’s quote is to ignore the mandate that encourages men to leave homes and abrogate their responsibilities. Another way to use Follett’s quote is to talk about challenging our communities to come up with a plan where our kids are pushing down the doors of opportunity with the bulldozer we have at our disposal--education. We got to make people change their vocabularies and stop repetitive welfare generations.

In 2002, the Census Bureau reported that over a lifetime, college graduates will earn $1,000,000 more than a high school graduate. If our kids are depending upon us to leave them their lifestyle, we definitely need to talk to them about that, because I’m not. I’m spending it. Education was the key for me, as I was told when I grew up, and I've told our son it’s the key to a pot of gold they can earn on their own.

So much of what we do today is based on a ‘culture of evidence,’ that which can be proven. One of the things not factored under this umbrella of the so-called ‘culture of evidence’ is that statisticians and demographers have generally ignored the ‘culture of privilege’ that has surfaced. This is a culture where you have people who believe the government or society owes them, rather than realize if they want to ride on the train to success they have to earn a ticket, and not expect one to be given to them.

Some time ago, I had a talk with our younger son’s teacher about an advanced mathematics program at the school he attends. Our younger son had declined to get into a program he had been asked to join. It was an elite honor, and my wife and I initially chose to listen to our son’s wishes. But after talking with teachers who sounded as concerned as the teachers I remember I had, my wife and I overruled our son wishes. Recently our son took the ACT test and remarked how easy it was. Why? Because he was parented into the right direction.

We put him on the road to achievement, rather than wallow in mediocrity and laziness. Our son was not happy. But as I shared with him, sometimes he needs to be quiet and do what he’s told without reaching to a constitutional argument of ‘freedom of choice’ that no parent should think is mandated in a house where they, not Congress, pay the bills. I don’t want him to live off us forever, so I’m weaning him now.

Carpe Diem. Seize the day. Parents should realize no one is going to care for our children the way we will. We have not only an opportunity but also an obligation as parents to unite and show our strength in numbers by being with our kids. Parents have a divine right and responsibility to unite and encourage our educators.

Most of all, as parents we have been called upon to work together to strengthen our education system; find ways to create laws that provide opportunities for us to leave villages to gain additional employment; and set examples so we can make a difference our children will remember us for, as we cultivate our men into becoming productive adults.