The excellent commentary in the Dec. 12 Frederick News-Post, “Whose problem is it, anyway,” by Fred Ugast, focuses on the plight of 595 homeless children in our school system as a stark reminder of the fallout of a lack of a long-term approach to our social ills.
Many organizations have been focusing on this fallout after lives have already been severely damaged. We do need to continue providing for this short-term emergency help. However, we need to consider the root causes of these social ills if we are to break the cycle.
More education in “life skills” may be one approach to consider. At the present time, in grades K through 9, the Frederick County Public School System curriculum has mandatory specific health classes and physical education classes. These encompass the “life skills” such as proper use of medications and risks of illicit drug use, appropriate and positive family and peer relationships, financial planning, responsibility to the community as a good citizen, and other skills that all help one navigate life’s challenges.
Unfortunately, these specific, mandatory, standalone classes are not mandatory after 9th grade (no Maryland state requirement). Some have indicated that all of these important “life skills” beyond 9th grade are being incorporated into the academic classes — English, math, physics, etc. This patchwork approach does not permit enough time, nor teachers qualified to teach both subject matters.
Generally, Advanced Placement courses that affect the admission to better colleges have been completed early in high school, and many students have completed most classes required for graduation before the twelfth grade. Therefore, there would be time for more mandatory classes that would be beneficial to those of all academic achievement levels.
The outpouring of aid in response to the 595 homeless children indicates a willingness of many people to help. Many of these people would support implementations of long-term solutions if there were some organized way they could contribute.
The Frederick community should seriously consider how to address the root causes of these problems. “An Ounce of Prevention is worth a Pound of Cure” — Ben Franklin.