Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Hooray for Alonso!

While Buz has sometimes disagreed with Dr. Alonso, CEO of Baltimore's Public Schools, he wholeheartedly agrees with yesterday's plea to stay the course on the Maryland High School Assessments. This is really a crime issue. So many of these kids go through their school years playing around, playing hooky, running the halls, hanging out, and just thinking that it's all a game--like on the streets. There are no consequences. What Dr. Alonso was saying yesterday is: this ain't juvenile court, guys and gals. There are consequences: you won't be pushed thru to graduate.

Buz works part-time as a vocational caseworker at a local nonprofit, where about 70% of the clients are court-awarded. His job is to help them find jobs. It is so sad to see men (they're mostly men) in their 30s, 40s, and 50s who dropped out of school--most will say 10th grade, though they probably weren't doing much by then--and never went back to a GED. Many have several children. Their job prospects are meager and limited-with a few exceptions. They enjoyed the pleasures of running the streets, hanging out with the girls, smoking a little weed, and not going in for all that nerd-like crap. (Peter Moskos says in his book that: "drug dealers get laid".) Well, people make decisioons.

And I know, this all sounds kind of judgmental, and your consultant feels very sorry for the kids who dropped out of school because the school was controlled by punks and thugs, (now gang members), who get their kicks beating up on people who were not them. But the GED route was always an option, even to them. But nobody was able to, or wanted to perhaps, take them aside and say: Ya gotta stop all this street stuff; without an education you'll get nowhere. But the decision to say that were not made; and the decision to finish even a basic education was not made. And now, as adults, the past is never dead--it's not even past. In three years, I've seen dozens of clients who I've urged to get their GED's; to my knowledge, a handful or less have tried.

Good for Dr. Alonso! He's sending the right message to the kids and their parents: school is not a prison; it is not a playground; it is an opportunity. {Posted in the vestibule of the Institute of Notre Dame}.