Last week, Cary Carr examined how the city’s recent flash mobs could translate into a positive movement. Shari DaCosta takes a look at the team effort needed by the city, its schools and parents.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, and this may be the case with the recent violent flash mobs by teens in Philadelphia.
Growing up, my mom worked full-time, and at one point, even went to school part-time, yet I never got in any serious trouble in school or at home. And to what do I attribute this? The afterschool activities and strong extended family structure I grew up with.
In recent weeks, many have suggested that the flash mobs on South Street and in Center City are linked to the budget cuts closing libraries and community centers, lack of after school activities or just a lack of parental involvement.
For Mayor Nutter and the School District of Philadelphia, it seems they believe they should play a peripheral role, with parents acting as the primary care givers.
In a recent Philadelphia Inquirer article, Nutter was quoted as saying, “I ran for mayor. I didn’t run for mother.”
On the other hand, Fernando Gallard, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia School District said, “there hasn’t been any connection between the lack of after schools programs and the students…that are out Saturdays and also during the school days after school and the so-called flash mobs.”
Still, are schools offering enough after school programs for students to engage in?
Although Gallard could not provide the number or a complete list of the extracurricular activities provided by the district, he said there are “an array” of after school programs offered to meet the needs of students at various schools, from athletics to newspaper and photography clubs.
“We create programs that are the types of programs students are asking for … that’s why it’s crucial it’s done at the school level,” Gallard said.
He also said the types of programs vary depending on the type of school the program is in. For example, a school that focuses on science will have more science-based after-school programs.
According to the district’s Web site, for the fiscal year 2008-2009 it spent $5,665,946 on extracurricular activities and clubs and budgeted $6,167,665 for the fiscal year 2009-2010.
“Each school has a different budget depending on how many students they have, the needs of the students and also the socioeconomic background of the students,” Gallard said.
Still, providing older adolescents with extracurricular activities through the school or city may be like bringing a horse to water: You can provide all the programs you want, but if a student does not want to participate in the programs, he or she will not.
“It’s really up to the choice of the parent what the student’s going to do in the early grades and the middle grades,” Gallard said.
But once the child reaches high school and becomes more independent, it’s easy for the student to make his or her own choice, regardless of the parents’ wishes.
Although some may question whether schools or the city are doing enough to ensure that teens have enough programs to occupy their free time – and thus keep them from engaging in criminal activity – one must not forget the importance of parental guidance in keeping teens on the right track.
If parents do not instill values in their children, such as respect, hard work and compassion, from an early age, then it doesn’t matter how many programs schools or the state provide. Teens will be left to their own devices acting on their rebellious teenage instincts and peer pressure.
The bottom line is this: There must be a collaborative effort between the schools, city and parents in which schools and the city provide teens with extracurricular activities, while parents encourage their children to participate in these programs and teach them how to walk away from the peer pressure to engage in rebellious behavior that strives on disrespecting authority.
Shari DaCosta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.