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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Where's The Best Place To Raise Children?

Plano West Senior High School
You may have never heard of Plano, Texas, population 270,000.

A progressive, rapidly growing suburb of Dallas, Plano is a recent proud winner of the coveted All-America City Award. It has some of the finest homes oil money can buy, one of the best school systems in the state, and an overall crime rate said to be the lowest of any Texas city of over 100,000.

Compare that to Harlem, one of the densely crowded and crime ridden boroughs of New York City. Like many large urban areas, Harlem has more than its share of problems with illegal drugs, broken homes, bad schools, and teenage pregnancies.

Which is the better place to raise children?

Plano should be, of course. But in the mid-nineties it began to face a growing number of its teens, reporting feelings of worthlessness, boredom and depression, becoming addicted to heroin in a potent new capsule form. Seven of its young people, most of high school age and one only 13 years old, died of heroin overdoses in a year's time. Many more were rushed to local hospitals for emergency treatment because of the drug.

Not only heroin, but high potency, low cost meth and other drugs are also widely available through sources in nearby Mexico, and the use of pharmaceutical drugs also remains a huge problem among well to do school age children and young adults.
  
By contrast, one particular public school in the middle of Harlem has become widely known as a place where teens develop an amazing sense of pride and achievement. Children from all kinds of family backgrounds audition to become a part of the Choir Academy of Harlem, a school of 550 students from grades 4-12 best known as the home of the Harlem Girls Choir and Harlem Boys Choir. An impressive 98% of the school’s graduates, according to a recent report, go on to college, and most become highly successful adults.

This is not to suggest we all move to poverty-stricken Harlem, but what can we learn from this “tale of two cities”?

Maybe that our tendency to overprotect and over-provide for our children, in an effort to “save” them from stresses and problems, we may sometimes put them at greater risk. On the other hand, if we maintain high expectations for them, along with showing lots of love, support and encouragement, we can help motivate them to strive for true excellence.
  
Teens deprived of opportunities to take on high stakes, world-changing challenges or risks tend to explore unhealthy ones, like using alcohol and other drugs, having irresponsible sex, driving dangerously, and engaging in other irresponsible behaviors.
  
When it comes to teaching them good values and responsible behavior, it’s not so much where we live, but how we live and what we expect of our children that makes the winning difference.
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