Thursday, February 14, 2013

School Closings Offer Opportunities for Students to Learn a Trade

Commentary by Representative Jack Kimble (R-CA, 54)

Unfortunately, it's very easy for parents to get angry over school closings.   After all, neighborhood schools can be sanctuaries in a neighborhood of boarded up and abandoned buildings and the school community can be a family for children whose own parents are unable to provide them with the stability every child deserves.  This is a nationwide problem, but because Last Stand for Children First is so active in Chicago, I probably understand that situation a little better.

The problem in Chicago is that 30,000 students have left the system so it is necessary to close over 100 schools in African-American neighborhoods.   I guess, an "oops" is warranted on the part of the city, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing as you will see.

In Chicago, parents, teachers, and community members have been lucky enough to have forums provided by the Walton Foundation to allow them to vent to facilitators and plead that their school be kept open without having the pressure of actual decision makers being present at the hearings.    This free flow of information has been a wonderfully democratic process and I understand that at last night's meeting, several CPS representatives managed to stay awake through the entire two hour event.

Parents in Chicago are alarmed because as they head into a second round of discussion, 129 public schools are supposedly on the chopping block.  Everybody needs to take a deep breath because if not this year, next year there will be a third round where a bunch of new charter schools are opened.  In the meantime, this need not be wasted time for the thousands of displaced school children in Chicago who are finding out too late to get into charter or selective enrollment schools. 

1. Become an NBA Superstar:  Many, people from depressed neighborhoods find careers in professional sports.   Malcolm Gladwell says that to be an expert in anything takes 10,000 hours of practice.  With the schools in your neighborhood shut down, what better time to start logging those hours.  With this many schools shut, there is sure to be an abundance of unneeded sporting equipment.  Grab a ball and reach for the stars.

2. Learn the Art of Negotiation: I love coming of age stories where the heroes must make his way on a perilous quest through all sorts of danger.   Now, students can do this.  With gang territories in Chicago reduced to as little as a single block by drug fueled in fighting, student can cross multiple gang lines every day making deals and negotiating.  While it may be scary.  Surely, this will help these kids as adults when they're in the board room.

3. Learn a Trade: I have been a fierce proponent of awarding full employment rights to all American citizens regardless of age.   If we can work to reduce child labor laws, surely these students can learn a trade.  I don't know if Chicago has any working coal mines, but that seems like a natural.    Every year America imports billions of dollars of merchandise made by child labor.  That merchandise should be made by American children.

Sure, every child deserves a great neighborhood school with a rich curriculum, but sometimes you just have to let the streets be your teacher.  The idea of public education for all is an outdated remnant of the 19th century like parks and clean drinking water.   It's time for our young people to put their nose to the grind stone and make this a truly American decade in an American century.