My colleague, Dave Oedel, thinks our sheriff’s office is slacking off so I drove down and talked to Sheriff David Davis. Last Sunday, Oedel said the sheriff should identify the “hot spots” in our county. The sheriff gave me a list of 58 specific “hot spots” that are monitored 24/7.
Oedel thinks the sheriff should start confiscating guns. The sheriff’s office has already picked up 137 handguns and rifles over the past four months. That’s about 408 a year. Doesn’t sound like our deputies are “scared badgeless,” as the professor claimed.
But that’s not the root of our problem. The question is “why?” Why do some people choose crime over an honest day’s work? Why do these sons and daughters of ours become criminals? These are people born and raised in our own community. Who is looking at the root cause? We elect our sheriff to catch and jail the criminals. His job is not prevention. Whose job is that?
Is it the job of our education system? Why are some schools better than other schools within the same school district? Is it the way we train our teachers? Is it because some children just can’t learn the traditional way, and we won’t change tradition? We’ve spent millions of dollars in our community trying to improve our schools, and, as Oedel reminded us in his column last year: “Bibb’s public school graduation rate ranks among the worst in Georgia, which is among the worst in the country. Bibb lies at the sorry fringe of the dropout bell curve.”
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Is it our teen pregnancy rate? All communities have teen pregnancies, but ours is higher than most. We have great hospitals and fantastic nurses and WIC and food stamps and welfare, so these teens and their babies are well cared for. In fact, of all the cities in America, Macon is No. 14 in the percentage of single-parent households; 58 percent of the homes in Macon have just one parent raising those kids. Could this be the root cause?
I don’t know. What I do know is that 82 percent of prison inmates are high school dropouts and that our worst-performing schools exist in single-parent neighborhoods. Looks like a connection to me. What if we could prove this statistically? We know it wouldn’t solve 100 percent of our crime problem. After all, Stephen McDaniel was highly educated and came from a two-parent household. But what if it would cut our crime rate in half? Would that make it worth the effort?
We have hundreds of nonprofit organizations right here in our Middle Georgia community, all of them doing great work. But I can’t find one whose sole mission is to stem the tide of teen pregnancies and promote the necessity of two parent families. Is this an impossible task? Maybe it is.
But Catrice Allen, Bibb County’s teacher of the year, doesn’t think so. She thinks we can turn this culture around if we begin early enough. She teaches fifth grade at Taylor Elementary School in Macon and used to teach in one of our high schools. She says high school is too late and that even elementary school is questionable. Kindergarten is the place to begin.
What if Catrice is correct? What if 10 of our best nonprofits teamed together with parents, teachers and pastors of one kindergarten class and began 12 years of teaching them the value of marriage and hard work and the old American dream? Would it work? Who knows? But if this is our root cause, isn’t it worth a try?
Dr. Bill Cummings is the CEO of Cummings Consolidated Corp. and Cummings Management Consultants. His website is digitallydrc.com.