Sunday, September 20, 2009

What About Our Children, Again?

What About Our Children, Again?

Paul Scott

Back when I was in school the blue eyed soul group, Hall and Oates had a song that had the chorus, "you're out of touch, I'm out of time." The song was about some dude who couldn't get along with his main squeeze but it also sums up how I felt while watching the MSNBC special "About Our Children," last night.

The program was promoted as a Bill Cosby Town hall meeting, so like many folks, I tuned in to expect to see Dr. Cosby ranting and raving about how Hip Hop is destroying the minds of young black children especially since he had tons of material following last week's MTV Video Music Awards. I assumed that as the credits were rolling he would still be pointing his finger at the camera and yelling, "Now about that Kanye West fellow...and who told that little girl to jump on the stage with Jay Z !"

But no, as Cosby pointed out during the intro, it wasn't his show; he was just the draw.

That was pretty much the case.

As with most meetings that deal with the plight of "troubled youth," the MSNBC program suffered from the same problem; wrong place and wrong people.

The meeting took place in a nice auditorium at Howard University in Washington DC. I think that it would have been more realistic if it would have been held at one of the many community centers in the 'hoods of DC but I guess that wasn't the ambiance that the producers were trying to create.

On the panel you had a bunch of mostly private school educated folks who would probably wet their pants if one of their students threw up a gang sign during English class. You had the professors professin' about the problem. You had the ,obligatory, lady who looked like she just stepped out one of those movies where the great white hope goes into an inner city school and within the first 6 weeks all of the students become Phi Beta Kappa candidates. I'm still not sure how comedian, Paul Rodriguez wound up on the panel, I guess Chris Rock was busy.

They even showed scenes from a few schools where the children all wanted to grow up to be doctors and teachers. Not one mentioned wanting to be Lil Wayne's hype man or a forward for the Chicago Bulls.

Where were the real people? Where were the community activists that could have told the challenges that they face in trying to change their local school systems? Where were the "inner city" teachers who would have been told where to go and what to kiss if they tried to implement some of the feel good strategies that the panelists suggested? It would, also, have been nice if they would have ,at least, allowed the parents of "at risk youth" to Twitter in some comments even if they couldn't make the pilgrimage to the nation's Capitol.

But instead you had a two hour visit to a fantasy world where the children always beat the tardy bell and the hallways smell like Lemon Pledge instead of stale urine.

I can't really say that watching the program made me a better parent or taught me much that I didn't already know. I can think of a few scholars (Jawanza Kunjufu, Na'im Akbar) that would have kept me from watching the clock hoping that I wouldn't miss the kick off of the Cowboys/Giants game for most of the program.

Maybe it's not all that deep. Perhaps, the problems facing our children can be solved with nice polite town hall meetings where people sit unemotionally, quiet as a panel of really smart folks gives them advice to save their children who step over crack pipes and broken wine bottles on their way to class every morning. Or maybe the solutions are so controversial and advanced that the folks over at MSNBC wouldn't dare allow "real folks" on national TV to discuss the issue.

Or maybe there could have been a good mixture of the two possibilities?

But as Hall and Oates sang , at the end of the program, I think that most of us were left with "manic moves and drowsy dreams or living in the middle between the two extremes..."

Paul Scott writes for No Warning Shots He can be reached at or (919) 451-8283 He recently launched the Intelligence Over Ignorance Campaign.