3 Basic Problems in Allendale: Poor Education, Teenage Pregnancy, and Disconnected Dads
- 3: There are not just three things that are problems, but these are common here.
- Basic: These are not core issues. I’m still processing through what the deeper issues are. These basic ones are a good place to start for you to understand this culture.
- Problems: I don’t want to give the impression that everything is bad in Allendale, since I’ve already said that we shouldn’t only focus on the negative statistics.
- Allendale: Not everyone has these problems, and these are not unique to this area. But there is a pronounced prevalence and depth of these issues here.
That being said, in my time here I’ve seen that there are three areas that need to be addressed in order to have a long-term hope for change in this community: Education, Teenage Pregnancy, and Disconnected Dads.
I see kids struggle to read, and if they cannot read well, they will struggle to do homework in every subject, even math when it involves word problems. I remember this guy telling me that reading is more than looking at words; it’s about comprehension.
And reading isn’t the only subject where I see problems; math is also high on the list. A large portion of our kids in the program count and add on their fingers, even 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders doing problems like “8 + 7.” This technique may be fine up to a point, but how will they learn their times tables if they don’t even know simple addition tables?
I’m not sure where he got this data, so I wouldn’t flaunt this info too much, but one parent and leader from this part of the state told me this: “In middle class families like ours, parents read to their child an average of 2500 hours by the time the child is age 5. In impoverished areas, the child is read to for about 17 hours.” (This source says that that those numbers are 1000 and 25, respectively; either way, it is a huge gap.)
And teenage pregnancies do not just affect the mothers. Becoming a teenage father stunts his educational development, “reducing the chances of graduating high school by fifteen percentage points and increasing the chances of receiving a GED by eleven percentage points.” Now we have both young moms and young dads with infants, who are scared, tired, without hope, and without a proper education and means to provide.
Having babies at a younger age tends to lead to other issues. Across the US, 28% of mothers who have two or more children have those children by more than one man. I would hazard to guess that these numbers in Allendale are significantly higher. Consequently, as described in A Framework for Understanding Poverty, “family trees” in areas of generational poverty are much more complicated than in middle-class families.
Why is teenage pregnancy so common? I have heard lots of reasons:
- Lack of productive things to do.
- Peer pressure (remember the 79% data from above).
- Older men with some money who entice teenage girls to be their girlfriends.
- Moms and grandmothers telling young girls that having a baby is a way to get a check from the government.
- Lack of positive role models who would actively encourage children to not have sex.
In truth, it’s probably a mix of all of these, and more. (And read more in Feeling the Pain of a Fatherless Generation: Forgotten Fairy Tales.)
Having a man that is connected and responsible also trumps the teenage pregnancy issue. Let’s be clear — teenage pregnancy is not the end of the world. For most of history, women became pregnant as teenagers. Of course, in the context of our culture, teenage pregnancy is vastly different than what it meant centuries (or decades) ago. But in any culture, the key factor is whether Dad will stay involved. If Dad stays connected to the mother and child (whether or not marriage occurs), it will make the world of difference in the life of the child.
We need role models and mentors to encourage kids to abstain from sexual intercourse and to make good choices. We need to teach boys and girls what it means to be real men and real women.
I’m not sure what all this looks like, but it’s interesting to think and dream about.
- Insight About Students and What They Need
- School Report Card: The Somber Situation for Allendale Education
- Why Students Need a College Diploma, and How You Can Help Them Get There
- 4 Things That Dads Need to Do to Be Connected to Their Family
- Feeling the Pain of a Fatherless Generation: Angry Boys
- Poverty: Allendale, Bahamas, and the Gospel
- Jesus Can Redeem the Past
- Finding the Source