Donald L. Robertson

Blue Springs

To the editor:

“Is it OK if I call my dad?”

The young man was failing. He had been told that he was “worthless,” “incapable,” a “bad kid.” He was the product of discipline void of discretion. The possibility of returning to the eighth grade for his third attempt loomed increasingly necessary. He had experienced juvenile correction facilities and alternative-education programs but without success. Recommendations were made that included tutoring programs, independent study and an increased devotion to assignment completion. Most importance, he was advised to contact his father.

As to what any teacher, coach or administrator will attest, a father’s role in the rearing of children is significantly essential. In the late 16th century, William Shakespeare stated, “It is a wise father that knows his own child.” Two thousand years earlier, Confucius philosophized that “The father who does not teach his son his duties is equally guilty with the son who neglects them.” This historically profound realization, however, seems to have become lost on modern society.

The Census Bureau has determined that 24 million children now live in homes in which the biological father is absent. Studies have proven that these children are four times more likely to live a life in poverty and experience subsequent difficulties. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, children from fatherless homes account for the following statistics:

• 63 percent of teen suicides.

• 71 percent of high-school dropouts.

• 71 percent of teenage pregnancies.

• 75 percent of adolescent patients in chemical-abuse treatment facilities.

• 80 percent of teen rapists.

• 85 percent of teens with behavioral problems.

• 85 percent of youths in prison.

• 90 percent of teenage arsonists.

• 90 percent of teenage runaways.

By contrast, psychological research has shown children from father-supported, nuclear families exhibit superior intangible characteristics such as self-confidence and advanced social skills, that extend from adolescence into adulthood. Children possessing these attributes are more successful in both academic and recreational pursuits, are wont to exhibit empathy, and are less likely to involve themselves in criminal activities and the use of illegal drugs and alcohol. In addition, children from these circumstances are encouraged, as well as expected, to pass along positive characteristics and serve as role models for future generations.

He had been told that he was “worthless,” “incapable,” a “bad kid.” He was the product of discipline void of discretion. He made contact with his father, and he was no longer failing. He was recognized for his academic and behavioral accomplishments and was soon to return to mainstream, public education. And with this realization, he asked his teacher, “Is it OK if I call my dad?” The answer was yes.