In the inner city, where poverty, lack of education, and few economic opportunities prevail, the situation is far worse than in the suburbs. Here a higher proportion of parents may be jobless, on welfare, on drugs, or subjects or agents of violence and abuse. Many such parents are unable to provide an adequate role model for their children, a role model ultimately that says that studying hard and education are important. Affected by the general attitude that education is not really a problem, parents in these circumstances as well as those in more fortunate circumstances, find it difficult to place too much emphasis on education. Stressing education is even more difficult when economic opportunities are few and the rewards of education through job opportunity or advancement to higher levels of education seem distant indeed.
As poverty has persisted and grown worse in certain inner-city and rural areas, as the plague of drugs has grown to mean that some children have parents who are absolutely incapable of assuming parental responsibilities, and as violence has grown throughout our societies, schools have taken the brunt of our failure as a society to quell these problems. Indeed, there is a great deal of consensus about problems in and of the educational system over many years. Among these problems are establishing the relative priorities of content versus process, dealing with equity among students with vastly different abilities, interests, and intelligences, the lack of national goals for education, the relatively passive posture students are expected to assume, and the relatively low status of teaching as a profession in the United States.
There are some signs that the rhetoric is shifting slightly as we approach the year 2000. The word responsibility seems to be slowly re-entering our vocabulary. We may have begun to recognize that with the rights that our Constitution grants and the rights that many of our public policies have granted in the past decades also must come a degree of responsibility. Part of that responsibility, arguably, has to be to take better care of our children.