Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Caring Adults Are Needed to Fight Truancy Problem

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Caring Adults Are Needed to Fight Truancy Problem

Article excerpt

Byline: TONYAA WEATHERSBEE

Anthony Ray and Joe Morris recently messed it up for the whippersnappers who want everyone to think they can get by just fine without any adult help.

At one time, Ray and Morris thought that, too.

But now the former truants are giving education another try by way of Florida Community College at Jacksonville's Pathways charter school program. And what Ray and Morris admitted, at least in so many words, is that more truants would change their ways if more adults in their lives insisted upon it.

That acknowledgement - that kids can't raise themselves - kept seeping out at various points of a conversation that Mike Clark, Times-Union editorial page editor, and I had with Ray, Morris and other Pathways students.

Ray, for example, talked about kids who skip school because they don't have a mother or father figure to influence them otherwise. Some kids, he said, skip because they decide that school "ain't for them."

Come again?

How did we come to the point where children boldly assume that they have the authority to make that kind of a decision?

Then there was Morris.

Morris said he skipped school simply because adults saw him leaving and didn't try to stop him - and to work a day job so that he could buy a cell phone.

Come again?

How did we get to the point where a kid like Morris is less fearful of the consequences of missing school than he is of not having a fancy gadget?

The miracle in all this, of course, is that Ray and Morris ultimately found their way to Pathways - a more controlled learning environment where Morris said the director, Ken Francis, would never let him just walk out of the door without stopping him.

But to castigate them ignores the fact that they were teenagers when their disenchantment with school began. It ignores the fact that children are still more vulnerable to immaturity than to reason.

Most of all, it ignores what Ray and Morris are really admitting - that as kids, they didn't do a good job of raising themselves.

They needed grown-ups for that.

Of course, the first place where one ought to be able to find these grown-ups is in the home. …

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