Consider this: the reading scores of your 3rd grade child and her classmates helps prison planners project the number of jail cells that will be needed within a decade. (Do you ever envision your elementary school child behind prison bars?)
The prison prediction aphorism is popular among advocates for early childhood intervention and tutoring. This startling factoid grabbed my attention as I was attending an informational meeting at my church in south suburban Atlanta, GA, recently. About 20 of us heard this arresting news from the director of an after-school tutoring program, Path to Shine. We attended as potential volunteers. Our hope is to create a chapter in our parish.
Several teachers, both active and retired, were in the meeting, and were not at all shocked by the statement. People close to the classroom know the statement points to a truth they know from experience. It was clear to them that early intervention to help children learn to read and love to learn can change the path of their lives. They seemed to know the reality of the school-to-prison pipeline.
The Atlantic Monthly, in a July 12 report, called the popular nugget into question, but hedged its bets with the headline, “An Urban Myth that Should be True.” The writer, John Hudson, questioned the literal statement but proceeded to make a case for its essential truth. Click on the link and read the story. Let me know what YOU think. Or, share it on Facebook and see what your friends say.
Setting aside for a moment the literal accuracy of the jarring factoid, I was still trying to digest the concept of a “school-to-prison pipeline” when I came across the even more shocking idea, the “cradle-to-prison pipeline.”
“Many people have heard about the school-to-prison pipeline — how harsh school discipline policies funnel kids into the criminal justice system. Last month, the Children’s Defense Fund issued its 2012 report on the State of America’s Children, whose data show how black children move through the Cradle-to-Prison Pipeline at higher rates than any other group.”
If a few volunteer hours a week could keep a kid in your neighborhood from going to prison, wouldn’t you consider the time well-spent?
The Children’s Defense Fund produced this slide presentation to illustrate the Cradle-to-Prison Pipeline.