Raspberry: Parents must believe in the magic of education

TUPELO – High-quality superintendents and principals, skilled teachers and large school budgets are great, William Raspberry said Thursday.
But the former Washington Post columnist from Okolona said a more important factor for educational success is the homes where children are raised.
“Show me a home where learning and education are central and valued and where parents are responsible and competent at child-rearing, and I will show you a home of a good student,” Raspberry said at CREATE’s State of the Region meeting.
“Show me a school with a high proportion of students from these homes, and I’ll show you a good school.”
The Pulitzer Prize-winning Raspberry is the creator of Baby Steps, an Okolona organization that mentors parents of children age 5 and younger.
“A lot of parents love their children deeply and don’t have a clue what to do for their children unless they are taught,” he said.
Raspberry was one of two speakers at Thursday’s meeting who addressed early childhood education. The other was Laurie Smith, executive director of Mississippi Building Blocks, which is working to improve the academic credentials of the state’s preschools and child care centers.
Smith talked about the importance of children learning before they enter kindergarten.
“By the time you are 2 years old, it is already possible to predict which kids will graduate college,” Smith said.
Raspberry drew an analogy from his trips to the casinos in Tunica County. If he shows up there without money or chips, it doesn’t matter how hard a casino worker tries to enhance his experience.
“We have to remember that children show up in the casino of life with no money and no chips, and we need to find a way to help them get into the game,” he said.
Raspberry said parents must understand the importance of education and its ability to launch their children to something greater.
“My parents believed in the magic of education. They believed that education was life-transforming and they did whatever they could to get their child educated,” he said. “Today’s parents in Okolona don’t believe in that magic anymore. It didn’t happen for them, and they don’t see it making a difference for their children.”
Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or chris.kieffer@djournal.com.

Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal