Monday, May 31, 2010

CHALLENGES – ‘Real Life’ For The Young Single Mother

CHALLENGES – ‘Real Life’ For The Young Single Mother

I teach at a two-year career college in Memphis, and I love what I do. I’ve been an educator for the past 20 years or so, and I have come to understand many of the dynamics of the students who return to school after really screwing up in junior and senior high school. It is, all at once encouraging to see people still trying to improve their lives, yet shameful that adults in America would be so uninformed and “behind the curve” that leads them to possible economic and career success.

The population of students at most career colleges in the U.S. is predominately female. This is true for Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU’s) as well. This is also true at top-rated business schools, major universities, and in virtually all post secondary institutions. Girls are more likely to conform to academic standards, and to “qualify” for admission. Whatever the reason, most of my 100 or so students in four different classes are female. Women of various ages, having arrived at a decision to re-enroll into school for personal and career advancement, come back with very weak academic habits.

The decision to “go back to school” is undertaken, most often, against a backdrop of near chaos in their personal lives. A cursory examination of their demographic reveals financial hardships, toxic relationships, academic mediocrity and inconsistent family support. Add to these general challenges, issues of child care, transportation difficulties, negativity from equally unsuccessful friends, and the inherent stress of modern American life, and it becomes all the more amazing that these women would have even found their way to a college. My classroom discussions of “current events” is most revealing in that my adult students are not very knowledgeable about what’s going on in their city, in their state, in their country, or in the world. There is enough blame to go around for this intellectual shortcoming, most of which falls on the women themselves.

A serious look beyond the surface, however, reveals early challenges for most urban girls. A shaky educational start, sexual abuse by relatives and neighbors, abusive situations as teenagers, and virtually no motivation or guidance from women in the community, are all mitigating factors in the early dysfunction and poor decision-making by young women and girls. If they make the unfortunate decision to have a baby by a total loser, then their chances for early career success are all but extinguished. Some young women recover from this ominous start, and establish reasonably successful lives, but in most cases, and after a second child by this same loser (or worse yet, by some other delinquent), young ladies face a set of circumstances that overwhelm them. The result is most often a break in their educational pursuits, and early economic hardships. None of this should be a surprise to any of us… or to them.

Our “village,” especially faith-based institutions and major sororities, must take the lead in bringing relief to women and girls. Most of the single women that I know, even women that I’ve dated, all seem to have a common set of modern difficulties that keep them stressed out, all the time. There is always a financial issue looming, large or small. There is a car repair that’s needed immediately. There may be an issue with their ex-husband, involving child support or some type of irritating request, just to keep the woman off balance. If young, single mothers have pre-teen or teenaged boys, there’s another layer of worry for them to contend with, as they simply try to keep the light bill paid. Many of us grew up in single-parent homes, but the modern circumstances faced by young women are more critical and pressing, and the bills never stop coming.

We can do better, in terms of early preparation and overall stability for the young women in our imaginary “village.” The REAL men must begin to protect these women and girls, rather than exploit them. Join “Men Against Domestic Abuse” (MADA), and learn more about what we can do now, to save another generation of children from the madness that exists all around them.

The challenges faced by young, single mothers are never-ending and very stressful, and there are few avenues for relief any time soon. Their future and our fate are inextricably interwoven because the dysfunctional boys they are raising will only add to the pool of illiterate – and all too often violent – children we have created by doing nothing for the last two decades.

(Anthony Nichelson is program director for the Citadel Radio Group and founder of the 110 Institute.

More Anthony Nichelson On W.E. A.L.L. B.E.:

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