At churches around the city, on almost any night of the week, people are coming and going for special services, programs and rehearsals. Church activities, whether held on a weekday night or weekend afternoon, often attract so many people that cars are doubled parked on the street.
Parents and children, from every socioeconomic segment in this city, take time out on a regular basis to attend church.
Yet, on those evenings when PTA meetings are scheduled at schools near those same churches, almost nobody shows up by comparison. On some occasions, teachers are the only ones in attendance.
Earlier this month, District voters overwhelmingly approved Initiative 25, which established as a matter of public policy that funding for public schools in the District of Columbia be of the highest priority.
But lack of funds is not the only problem faced by the District school system. Indeed, money woes may be the easiest to solve, especially if pulling a lever in a voting booth is all that is required.
What is at the heart of the educational crisis in this city is a lack of parental involvement in our schools. The need for parents to show more interest in what is happening in their children's schools was cited again and again by school board members seeking reelection as well as their challengers.
But even the forums set up to talk about educational issues drew small audiences. When it comes to the value of education, and what it takes to ensure that a child gets a good education, the message is just not getting through.
What, then, is it going to take? Start holding PTA meetings at church, before choir practice, after the usher board meeting, right along with Bible study? Why not?
In this town, especially, church is where the people go -- rain, shine, sleet or snow. And if we can't bring parents into the school, let's bring some school into the church where the people already are.
There is a reverence, a seriousness of purpose that characterizes all meetings inside a church, and this is precisely the attitude that is required for tackling the problems of our schools.
It seems to me that bringing school activity to the church, since church works can't be brought legally into the schools, would be the fastest, most effective way of radically increasing parental involvement in the schools.
For years now, city officials have been linking teen-age pregnancy, infant mortality, drug abuse, black-on-black crime (you name a pathology) to "poor education."
The Lorton Reformatory and city jails are filled to capacity because of "poor education."
But are we truly serious about tackling these issues? The statistics say we just don't give a damn.
Talk to teachers about what "poor education" means and they'll tell you Johnnie: 1) did not pay attention in class, 2) did not do his homework and 3) did not give a damn because his parents did not seem to give a damn.
I believe, however, that all parents do care, but many of them have become worn out by the daily struggle to survive.
Reaganomics is leaving a mark on the black community more devastating than anyone could have imagined, even those in this city who voted overwhelmingly against the president.
The best that many residents can do is roll out of bed on a Sunday morning and give thanks to the Lord for helping them make it through last week and ask for more strength to deal with tomorrow.
It is precisely at this point that they can be hooked on the idea of making tomorrow a brighter day by preparing a brighter child for the future.
Using the church in this way is not a new idea. For decades, when racial oppression was even worse than today, the black church was the backbone of the black community because it provided a political, social, financial and, yes, educational base for its members.
It is time to return to the real basics of the black community, and put education in a context in which its value is regarded as nothing less than divine.