Watch what you count.
Did you ever notice when you buy a red car, how many other red cars you tend to see on the road? We pay attention to what we count.
In Baltimore, we are now counting murders. Make no mistake there are plenty of them. In fact, Baltimore ranks #2 in the nation in murder per capita for this calendar year. Second only to St. Louis Missouri. We are also second to Chicago with the highest number of murders, but they had 2.7 million people in the city; whereas Baltimore checks in at around 670,000 so Chicago comes in at #24 per capita.
Reasonably, everyone is trying to come up with a solution to stem this vicious tide that is tanking the city. It has been suggested that we need to have more things for kids to do after school besides get into drugs and crime. We need better housing so that children are not growing up in vermin infested homes- vermin both human and rodent. We need to teach parents how to parent their offspring, many of whom are barely out of childhood themselves. We need to teach responsible procreation. We need to send students to schools with the most experienced teachers not the least experienced ones. We need to send social workers into the schools in larger numbers to save these kids. These are all good ways to salvage our children.
Here is what we seem to forget to notice. Even in the midst of this large number of criminal adolescents and young adults, the majority of adolescents and young adults in the city and even in the worst neighborhoods-ARE NOT CRIMINALS.
These kids and young adults are living in vermin infested housing. They don’t have decent activities to get into after school. Their parents either don’t know how or don’t want to be responsible parents. There aren’t enough social workers. Still in spite of these terrible conditions, the majority of the kids are showing up most days. About 70% of them are actually graduating high school, even though test scores show they aren’t getting much of an education from these poorly trained and experienced teachers. Many of the kids who have escaped the pitfalls are siblings of of kids who have not and are in the criminal justice system at a very early age.
Why are these children hanging in there and working to succeed against incredible odds when others do not? These are the students we should be studying. These are the kids we should be talking to. We need to find out why these kids have not been drowned by wave after wave of misfortune and poor circumstances. We need to learn about the survivors. We need to count them. We pay attention to what we count. We have been counting the failures. Let’s count the young people who are making it against all odds. They can teach us what to do and what to count.