AMANCHUKWU: We must save our schools to save our children from crime epidemic

Below is a transcription of an op-ed from 1776 Senior Fellow John Amanchukwu that first appeared in Fox News.

Last month, in a shocking display of mob violence, hundreds of teenagers took to the streets in Chicago, smashing car windows, firing guns, and even assaulting innocent bystanders. It’s a scene that has become all too familiar throughout the country in recent months amid a youth crime wave that has devastated families and communities and revealed a stunning lack of moral foundation in our youngest generation. 

While many Americans are rightfully demanding that political leaders do more to end the lawlessness and punish offenders – including ending the war on police – city halls and state legislatures can only put a Band-Aid on a much deeper problem. When it comes to youth crime, if we want to end the violence in our streets, we must start raising the standards in our schools. 

There is no denying that the American education system is failing students – especially students in low-income, urban areas. In Chicago, 18 schools had zero students who rated as proficient in either math or reading in 2022. In Baltimore City Public Schools, 90% of students are not proficient in math, and 80% of elementary students are not proficient in English. The graduation rate is just 69%. 

Some districts have given up entirely on improving learning outcomes. In the Los Angeles Unified School District, teachers are simply handing out higher grades even as fewer and fewer students meet state testing standards.

Politicians, especially on the left, have been quick to blame pandemic for these alarming figures. But the hard truth is our schools were failing long before COVID-19. In 2019, prior to the lockdowns, just 37% and 32% of students rated as proficient in reading and math, respectively, across all of Illinois. In 2018, 140 New York City schools had at least one grade where more than 90% of students failed state competency tests. 

It’s not a question of funding, either. Baltimore City Public Schools ranks fourth nationally in funding on a per-student basis. The New York City education budget was 89% above the national average last year – $37,000 per student. In total, the federal government distributed $190 billion to schools in COVID-19 relief funds. 

So why is student achievement continuing to slip, going hand-in-hand with a precipitous rise in violence both in and out of classrooms? 

One big reason is that schools have stopped teaching hard skills like reading and math and are instead peddling left-wing grievance politics like critical race theory and radical gender theory. CRT teaches kids – especially Black kids – that racial minorities are marginalized in this country, and that lashing out in acts of violence and looting are ways of “leveling the playing field.”

The so-called “equity” agenda is a particularly sinister aspect of this worldview. In schools, “equity” means lowering the bar for all students in order to manufacture the same outcome for everyone, destroying merit and any incentive for high achievement along the way.

CRT and “equity” training teach kids the lie that concepts like rationality and hard work, rather than forming the bedrock of a happy and prosperous life, are “racist” and don’t matter anyway because success or failure is pre-determined by skin color, gender, and sexual orientation. 

This lie is especially harmful for Black and low-income kids, who are the primary targets of the far left’s classroom indoctrination campaign. 

Many such students often lack a stable family life, and in particular a father in the home – another major driver of poor academic performance and lawless children. Without the solid moral grounding that strong families provide, kids in the school system are at the complete mercy of evil and twisted ideologies that encourage division and violence along racial and class lines.

This has predictably led to the complete erosion of any form of discipline in our schools, and by extension our streets. If Black students believe that they are doomed to be victims of an irredeemably racist and corrupt society, is it any surprise that they have no interest in school and are prone to acts of destruction and violence?

Meanwhile, school staff and even law enforcement officials have been effectively neutered by liberal politicians who view punishment for wrongdoing as just another relic of a “systemically racist” society. 

The results of this moral corruption of an entire generation of kids are truly tragic – even more so because they were avoidable. Last year, nine kids under 17 were killed between 2 and 5 p.m. on school days in Chicago. In New York City, 124 kids under 18 committed shootings in 2022. Other crimes like carjackings are also on the rise among young people, while violence inside of schools is at an all-time high. 

Addressing these problems starts first and foremost in the home. We desperately need to change the culture of fatherlessness in this country, particularly in the Black community, and return faith to a central place in our lives.

We also need to purge our schools of the divisive ideologies that are seeding resentment and self-loathing in our young people. Groups like 1776 Action, which I am proud to work alongside, are doing heroic work to achieve this goal, and their Parent Power Pledge is helping voters know which politicians will fight for change once elected. 

As I have seen in my own ministry and outreach, there is hope for the future. With the right approach, we can still save many young people from destroying themselves and their communities. But it’s going to take bold leadership, accountability for failing officials, and a commitment to education, not indoctrination, in our schools.