Column: Sneaker give-away was well-intentioned but short-sighted

Column: Sneaker give-away was well-intentioned but short-sighted
May 12
10:30 2016

Sam Davis

Guest Columnist

What a wonderful gesture by the Chris Paul Family Foundation to supply more than 200 pairs of shoes to the students at Cook Elementary. That shows there are people in the community who care about the future of our inner-city youth. Great job by Kerry Wiggins and the support team at Cook to collaborate with a non-profit organization to bring change to the lowest performing school in the state of North Carolina.

However, there are bigger issues that must be addressed if we expect Cook to succeed in its new literacy model. While the intent of everyone involved was well-intentioned, it might prove to be short-sighted. In fact, it might prove to be counterproductive because it might send the wrong message (of entitlement) to both students and parents. Parents of students and other stakeholders of the school must play a bigger role in the success of their children if they want to change the direction in which the school is headed.

The same could also be applicable to schools in low-income communities throughout this county and nation. This is not a personal attack, but people whom the community produce (i.e. professional athletes, with multi-million dollar contracts) should be held accountable to the people that helped catapult them to their platform of stardom.

As the old proverb suggests, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, but teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” That’s the strategy that needs to be in place for long-term change in many of our struggling schools. While it is good public relations and a good “feel good” story for superstars to give back to the community with free Nike shoes or other giveaways, the long-term implications of that action is concerning. That’s the same strategy that has been used to pacify African-Americans and other minorities for years.

“That is also part of the sense of entitlement that many of the youth in inner-city communities have come to embrace. For one, it helps to promote material possessions over substance.” Many of our inner-city youth view having the latest sneakers (CP3’s, Air Jordan’s, KD’s, Lebron’s) as the model of success. Far too many don’t value the work ethic that produces academic success in the classroom and beyond (such as that Chris Paul has managed to accomplish). That is one of the biggest hurdles that those who work in schools in low-income areas must deal with on a day-to-day basis.

Rather than promoting entitlement-producing giveaways, we need to work to promote policies and programs that will benefit the aforementioned individuals long term. We need programs that teach the core principles of hard work and the resulting academic success that come with it. We need to have more team-building programs in our schools (where successful members of the community work with families) and more volunteerism. We need to promote core values and work hard to make sure that students and parents understand them.

We need to build our own brands, rather than promoting brands that fail to measure up to the under-represented in our communities. We need to model our own success rather than waiting on outsiders to build it for us. It is time for us to form collaborations with people who look like us and/or those who have our own best, long-term, interests at heart.

The fact that the Chris Paul Family Foundation was willing to step up to try to solve the problems plaguing Cook is definitely a sign of better days ahead. But let us work together to form more meaningful, long-term, solutions.

Sam Davis of Winston-Salem has been a coach of students for more than 35 years. He also is an ordained minister.

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