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Nancy S. James
In today’s society the gap between the “haves” and the “have nots” is growing exponentially. It appears that the majority of those on the losing side of this “contest” are minority children, especially African American males. There is increasing awareness that if any group is in desperate need of sound advice and direction, it. is young African-American men, many of whom live on the cutting edge of poverty and despair. Their problems run the gamut from a hostile racist environment, unemployment, gang pressure, substandard housing and substandard schools to drug trafficking, substance abuse and incarceration (to name only a few).
Some statistics give a sense of the magnitude of the problem. According to research, nearly one out of four African-American men aged 2O - 29 were in jail, or prisons on probation or parole as of 1989. African-Americans represent only 12% of the population, however 44% of the inmates in state prisons and local jails are African-American males. (Ingrassia 15) Life expectancy for African-American males decreased from 65.2 years to 64.9 years (while white males’ rose from 75.3 to 75.6) (Dickey l39)
This knowledge will help them take a pro-active (informed choices) role regarding their future, and type of family situation they will choose as opposed to their future being a result of reacting to outside forces and for events in their
- 1) provide general information concerning the court system in the United States.
- 2) provide information and practical advice, examine current laws and use problem solving activities designed to develop in students the knowledge and skills necessary to evaluate situations they may/will be confronted with as potential teen-aged fathers.
- 3) finally they will be exposed to the concept of abstinence (and/or responsible sexual activity) a small but growing trend in the country today.
- I.: Increase student awareness of the United States Judicial system. Students will be able to discuss, define, identify the various aspects of the court
- II.: Increase student awareness of issues concerning minority teen aged parents in the United States specifically awareness of statistics concerning teen pregnancy in the United States.
- A.: students will become aware of their own family structure. now it fits into society.
- B.: students will begin to formulate opinions concerning their future role in society including the type of family they wish to have.
- III.: Increase student self concep
- A.: students will become aware of their own family structure, how it fits into society.
- B.: students will begin to formulate opinions concerning their future role in society, including the type of family they wish to have.
- IV.: Increase student awareness of issues concerning changing, evolving, differing family structures. including:
- 1) extended
- 2) nuclear
- 3) single-parent
- 4) step families
- V.: Increase student. awareness of the growing movement towards abstention.
- A. students will be able to define, and discuss abstentions and its possible effects on their future.
- B.: students will be able to discuss responsible sexual activity.
Figures such as these confirm a trend toward increasing sexual activity involving teens that we as teachers of middle and high school students have observed for sometime. Dr. James P. Comer of the Yale University Child Study Center says “the exploding population of African-American Children from single Parent homes represents the education crisis that is going to kill us.” (Ingrassia 15)
The children of teenage parents usually live their lives as part of a single-parent family. Unfortunately many of these parents are poor women.
Washington D.C. - 50% of the household consist of single-parents, 89% of which are headed by poor women.If the single-parent-trend continues, half of all children born in the U.S. last- year (1993) will live with a single parent by the time they are 1S years old.(Hodgkinson 16)
Detroit. Mich. - 55%. of household consist of single-parents, 84% of which are women. (Brown 12)
Hamden. Conn.- 57% of the children are from a single-parent household. (Thomas 5)
Black families nationally - 50% ( up from 23% in 1967) are now headed by single women.
Black children today are more likely to be born into poverty, lack early pre-natal care, have a single mothers and/or unemployed parents.
Single parent families are a product of economic factors with a long history. The historical background of the economic status of African-American has been a mixture of highly visible improvements and persistent problems. Substantial gains in academic achievements during the 1970’s greatly increased the size of the black middle class. By the mid 1980’s a majority of African American families earned more than $15,O00 a year and over 20%. had annual incomes higher than $35,000. Despite these advances the median family income of all blacks remained at less than three-fifths the median family income of whites. (Dickey 138}
Due to this family structures most families thrived, male children had a father figure readily available to serve as a counselor and often as a friend. Without a father as a role models many boys learn about relationships from peers. They learn that girls are to be used and/or abused. Having a father is no guarantee, but without a proper role model boys will tend to treat girls incorrectly. Elijah Anderson’s 1920 study of street life concluded “boys view courting as a game in which the object is to perfect a rap that seduces girls. The goal: to add up one’s conquests since that’s the measure of respect. (Ingrassia 17) The mother was able to provide children with everyday living skills, supervision, and general emotional care. It should also be noted that grandparents contributed greatly to the stability of the children.
Although some families continue to function on this level , the American family has changed dramatically in the past. 40 years. The variant that we will concentrate on will be the single-parent teenage father, the conflicts this causes and problems that often involve the law.
“Parents who are secure, valued and in control of their lives are more effective than those who feel unsure and who are not in control. Parents still have primary responsibility for raising children, but they must have the power to do so in ways consistent with their children’s needs and their own values. If parents are to function in this role with confidence, we must address ourselves less to the criticism and reform of parents themselves than to the criticism and reform of institutions that sap their self-esteem and power.” (Keniston 11)
In many communities there is an informal acknowledgment of the child by the teen-age father. Thin can range from simple public acknowledgment, to financial support and a sharing of child care responsibilities with the mother. Limited employment opportunities also play a key factor in a teen-age father’s ability willingness to conform to society’s image of a responsible parent. “Teen fathers run an especially high risk of- unemployment and disproportionately lack the educational credentials basic academic skills, and employment experience needed to secure steady well paying jobs.” (O’ Brian 227}
Unfortunately many of the children of teenage parents wind up being supported by AFDC. Originally set up in 1935 to assist widows, today many feel it is out of control. Many states are attempting to put restrictions such as: time limits, limit the amount of children being supported work fare etc.
“The Arkansas Legislature has even given money for Norplant. They wanted to reduce the number of young women and babies on welfare and Medicaid. I was thinking about the bright young people who were being lost because they are the products of unplanned pregnancies.” according to Joycelyn Elders, U.S. Surgeon General. (Todd 15)
As a result of these many issues contributing to the general breakdown of the family resulting in a preponderance of single-parent families, the African-American community has decided to organize, to raise the consciousness of men, especially young men, of the dilemma in America and their deteriorating relations with the family and the community at large.
The African American community has begun to recognize that African American males are in serious trouble. They have begun to rally as never before - organizations such as 100 Black Men, which is involved in various ways in the community, including an extensive centering program.
Another organization, Concerned Black Men tries to help vulnerable young African-American males and to serve as role models and mentors. Civil rights organizations have developed various “Black Male Responsibility” projects and some school districts are considering the merits of organizing all-black male schools to address their needs.
The Milwaukee school district has opened two schools (one elementary, the other middle school) that will cater specifically to African-American males’ academic and social needs. While the schools will accept children from all backgrounds, “they will emphasize African-American studies and seek to foster self-esteem and responsibility by offering school time counseling and discussions on such topics as male sexuality and entrepreneurship.” (Williams 15) The schools will also strive to have a higher ratio of African-American male teachers than the district norm.
A similar idea is taking place in Baltimore Maryland. This class however doesn’t do anything differently as far as curriculum is concerned, the idea is to have an African-American male teacher as a role model for young boys. The principal of the school noticed that because of the chances taking place in the neighborhoods the boys no longer were exposed to men on the corners going to work. They were now seeing aimless young men on street corners. At about the same time a teacher, (African-American male) noticed the young boys in his class begin to take on some of his mannerisms. “All these kids are saying,” Boynton says, “Teach me, discipline me, and love me.” Along the way, he adds, he hopes to instill in the youngsters some sense of direction for their lives. “In here” he says, “ we’re always talking about respect. responsibility, and self-control.” (Williams l9)
Another program called the Houston Endowment INC has contributed 1 million dollars to Texas Southern University to fund the school’s innovative Black Male Initiative, a program that aims to improve the quality of life for African-American males. BMI is a component of Texas Southern University’s Center on Family. “The program concentrates on the educational, social and economic needs of Black males include recruiting, mentoring, counseling, employment, tutoring, seminars, traveling and research.” (Moore 8)
There is also a Male Youth Project in Washington D.C.. Three men from the community have taken on the task of acting 25 surrogate fathers for up to 60 African-American boys in an after school program.
Some have stressed the need for school-based health clinics. “In a tiny school in Arkansas, the teenage pregnancy rate was 57% before we set up a comprehensive health clinic at the school. We created after-school programs and summer programs. They have had no pregnancies, no abortions. and no dropouts for three years.” according to Joycelyn Elders the nation’s top health official.
The final program we will discuss is the Young Fathers program of the Vocational Foundation. This program “drums at responsibility and pride in young fathers who typically are jobless dropouts with crimped prospects as individuals never mind as parents”. (Clines 21) The young men are counseled, sometimes helped to gain entry level positions and if necessary, helped through the maze of the court system to secure visitation rights to their children.
There are obviously many factors impacting on students in today’s society. In my discussion I have attempted to outline many of these factors so that you as a teacher will be able to lead discussions of these topics with your students. Only by exposing these ideas to our students will they be able to form opinions on the way they want to shape their future.
The legislative branch is Congress (composed of the House and the Senate). The executive branch includes the president and vice-president.. The judicial branch is made up of the courts. None of the three branches of the federal government can work alone. For example, only Congress can make laws. But the president must approve the laws by signing them, or not approving them or not approve by power of veto. The Supreme Court can decide whether the law goes against the Constitution. This system has checks and balances. This means that each branch checks or limits, the power of the others. The power is then balanced among all three branches.
U.S. SUPREME COURT
____U.S.CIRCUIIT COURT OF APPEALS
____U.S. DISTRICT COURT
____STATE SUPREME COURT
____(HIGHEST STATE COURT)
____MUNICIPAL OF COUNTY COURT
Further it can be explained that “Family of Domestic Relations Courts” may hear all actions involving divorces separation and child custody.
Additions time can be spent. Supplying students with various cases (varied) and having the students determine which type of court would try the case.
Using the basic facts of this case (as well as some fictitious information) the students will debate the opposing sides. As a result they will be able to understand the verdict.
Caban vs. Mohammed, (1970) a case in which a father had established a continuous supportive relationship with his children. The courts agreed and ruled in favor of the father.
These two cases illustrate for the students the necessity and obligation of fathers to actively maintain a relationship with their children regardless of the marital status of the parents.
Using the facts in these two cases the students will Conduct “mock trials” with the teacher as the judge.
Lehr vs. Robertson, (1989) a case in which the courts terminated the parental rights of a father who had rarely seen his daughter since her birth, were terminated without notice. The courts made it clear that an unwed father does not have an absolute right to notice.
These two cases illustrate to the students their obligation to any children they might have as far as their legal responsibilities. and therefore the rights that go along with them.
These cases also will be used as basis for “mock trials”, and discussions of the similarities and differences of the four cases.
The students can then write their own paragraph containing advice they would give to their sons.
Roland Burris - Attorney General State of Illinois. “You must set goals; you must think about how the future will turn out for those who dare to dream.”
Bill Cosby - Entertainer. “I want you to remember that when you were born you were as intelligent and anxious to learn as any one your age.”
|Dr. W.W. Herenton - Mayor Memphis, Tennessee.||“As the seed of a past and present generation, son, you will be fared with obstacles. However, I hope that. my words will help guide you in the challenges you face and the choices yon will make in life.”|
Percy Sutton - Chairman Emeritus Inner City Broadcasting. “No matter your circumstances you must live the consequences of your choices.”
Douglas Wilder - Governor Commonwealth of Virginia. “Taking a wife and beginning a family are the greatest responsibilities a man can accept. Making sure that you can provide for this family must be your highest priority.”
- 1) Students research financial aspects of child rearing. Each student brines to class a complete list (including prices) of a full layette.
- 2) Guest speakers including a former teen fathers a doctor (or health care professional) to discuss the health of children born to teenage parents
- 3) A lesson in which an alarm clock would be set at various intervals during the day. When the alarm goes off, student must perform a chore regardless of what they were engaged in (to illustrate an infant’s complete dependency and lack of set schedule).
Edelman. Marian Wright, Families in Peril. An Agenda For Social Chance, Harvard University Press, 1987. (Statistics that reflect current societal trends of the family).
Flanagan, Sylvia P., “25 Years Later: Is Racism Still Dividing America Into Black and White Races - Separate and Unequal?”, Jet, Johnson Publishing Co. INC. vol. 84, No. 5 May 31, 1993.
Gibson, Cynthia M., “Families in Society”, The Journal of Contemporary Human Services, (Empowerment theory and practice with adolescents of color}.
Haralamblie, Ann M. The Child’s Attorney, American Bar Association, 1993.
Holman, Adele M., (Keniston, excerpted from the Carnegie Council on Children, 1977) Family Assessment: Tools for Understanding and Intervention, Sage Publications, 1983.
Hutchinson, Dr. Earl Ofari, Black Fatherhood: The Guide Male Parenting, Middle Passage Press.
Ingrassia, Michelle, “Endangered Family” Newsweek. New York, NY. Aug. 30, 1992 Vol. CXXII, No. 9.
Lawson, Annette, and Rhode, Deborah L. , The Politics of Pregnancy, Yale University Press, New Haven.
Mchenrv, Patrick C., Heath, Terry D., “Fathers” The Journal of Contemporary Human Services vol. 74, Jan. 1993, (adult family life of men who fathered as adolescents).
Myers, David E.. “Consequences of Teen-age Parenting”, Journal of School Health, vol. 62, Sept. 1992.
Pleck, Joseph H., Sonenstein, Freya L., Ku, Leighton, “Neighborhood, Family and Work”, Social Forces, Vol. 72, Dec. 1993 (influences on the premarital behavior of adolescent males).
Poussaint, Alvin F. M.D., “Stop the Male-Bashing and Infighting” EBONY, vol. XLVIII, No. 4, (discussion concerning the ongoing battle between Black men and women is the biggest obstacle to the formation of healthy Black families).
Resnick, Michael D., Chambliss, Stephanie A., Blum, Robert Wm., “Teen Pregnancy”, Journal of Contemporary Human Services vol. 74, June 1993, (health and risk behaviors of urban adolescent males involved in pregnancy).
Semmens, Bob, “Male Criminal Activity from Childhood Through Youth”. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, March 1992.
Toch, Thomas, “Battle Plans of a General”. America’s Agenda Scholastic INC, Winter 1994, (nation’s 25 top health official speak about the need for mandatory health education in our schools).
‘Viadero, Debra, “Father Figure” Teacher Magazine, Editorial Projects in Education, INC, vol. II., Issue 7, April 1991.
Williams, Sharon K., “Two Schools for Black Boys”, Teacher Magazine, Editorial Projects in Education, INC, vol. II, Issue 4. Jan. 1991.
Willie, Charles Vert, A New Look At Black Families. General Hall INC, (case studies on Black Families).
Lehr vs. Robinson, 1983, 463, U.S., 248.
Quilloin vs. Walcott. 1978, 434, U.S., 246.
Stanlev vs. Illinois, 405, U.S. at 652.
Davis, Samuel M. Children’s Rights and the Law. Lexington, Mass.: D.C. Heath and Company, 1987.
Gardner, Steve, “I Ain’t Down For Being Called Daddy”, ETR Associates 1992.
Russell, Mary “Teen-age Pregnancy Prevention Bulletin”, Dept. of Children And Family Se-vices, One State Street New Haven, Ct.
Moore, Trudy S., “Tenn. Supreme Court Upholds Right of Unwed Father to Have Custody of His Son”, Jet Johnson Publishing vol. 85, no. 22, April 4, 1994.
Moore, Trudy S., “Texas Southern Gets Funds, Earmarked for Black Males”, Jet. Johnson Publishing Co. INC., vol. 83, No. 2 Nov. 2, 1992.
Moore, Trudy S., “Students Too Sick Emotionally To Do Well In 8chool”, Jet, Johnson Publishing Co., vol. 84, Feb. 1994.
Moore, Trudy S., “Median Income of Black Families Rises”, Jet. Johnson Publishing Co. INC, vol. 84, No. 5, May 1993.
Moore, Trudy S., “Infant Mortality Drops But Black’s Rate Still Highest” Jet, Johnson Publishing Co. INC, vol. 83 No. 2, Nov. 2 , 1992.
Moore, Trudy S., “Parent Withdrawal Provokes a Troublesome Trend For Teen-agers”, Jet, Johnson Publishing Co. INC, vol. 82, No. 23, Sept. 28, 1992.
Moore. Trudy S., “Advocate ‘Virgin Clubs’ In D.C. Public Schools” Jet. Johnson Publishing Co. INC, vol. 82, Sept. 28. 1992.
Moore. Trudy S. , “Teen Girls Opting for Abortions Less Often” Jet, Johnson Publishing Co. INC, vol. 83, No. 9, Dec. 21. 1992.
Norment, Lynn, “Father to Son”, EBONY, John H. Johnson Publishing, vol. XLVIII, No. 8., June 1993.
Randolph. Laura E. , “Halle Berry”, EBONY, John H. Johnson Publishing, vol. XLVIII, No. 6, April 1993. (Article discusses the life of the young entertainer including her growing up without a father.)
Radford , Mary F., “Fathers”, Emory Law Journal, 1980 (New York State statute requiring consent of mothers but not of father, as a prerequisite to adoption of illegitimate child violates the Fourteenth Amendment because it draws gender based distinction).
Clines, Francis X., Learning to Be A Good Father, The Only Way”, The New York Times, Sun. July 3, l994.
Little, Rubin T., “Search for Love or a Family Breakdown?” The Progeny, Supplement to the Inner City Newspaper Issue 7 Vol. 1. New Haven CT, May l994.
Scripps Howard News Service, “Teens Taking Pledge to Abstain From Sex”, New Haven Register, Tues. May 17, 1994.
NATURE: “The Nature of Sex” (looks at how different animals raise their young, including responsibilities of male and Female parents) CT. Public Television Special.
Contents of 1994 Volume I | Directory of Volumes | Index | Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute