[Note: The numbers have increased since then …]
A Different Way of Looking at “School”
School is far more than a building in which we educate our children to pass tests and grades. It is the place where we create the future of our country.
During the last 5 years I have had the pleasure of meeting young students around the country. I only asked them one question: “What is your dream for your future?”
Here are some of the answers:
“I want to be a teacher like my teacher.”
“I want to be an astronaut and go to Mars.”
“I want to cure the cancer my Dad died from.”
“I want to be doctor and help people.”
“I am going to be going to Mars.”
“I think I can be the President or maybe a Governor.”
“I want my Mom to be sent home from prison.”
“I want to finish this grade.”
“I want to find a place to live.”
“I just want to be safe.”
“I want to find enough food for me and my brother.”
“I want a home.”
I grouped the answers into two categories for a reason. Some of the answers are from kids who have a home, food, a feeling of security. Basic Maslow pyramid foundational stuff. Too many of the kids I met are missing a parent or parents, do not have enough to eat, live in poverty, and worse are homeless.
So if schools really do create the future, then here’s an idea about the ‘least of us’.
During many tornadoes and hurricanes I see that shelters are put together in gymnasiums all over the country. Disaster relief for people in need of help. The kids who are living in poverty, hungry all day, in homes that are not safe or worse living homeless are also in need of help. Their very lives are a daily disaster.
Personally I cannot fathom why or how these kids manage or even bother to go to school every day. I suspect that it’s a temporary shelter, warm and dry in the winter, there’s some food, a safe bathroom with toilets that work and running water. Other kids with whom to play, some structure.
And perhaps for many, even the dream of doing well and graduating to a better life, which has always been the basic underlying dream of education.
They need help. And it will not even cost a lot, especially for the kids who are homeless or in need of a safe place to spend the night.
Many other people pray for what most of us take for granted.
I propose that school administrators redefine the ideal of school as more than getting grades and passing tests. I suggest that we adopt and adapt the Red Cross disaster relief model.
Some of these kids will chose not to be identified as needing help. Too proud. To into their gang or drug or alcohol addiction. Too lost. Too much freedom from irresponsibility and nothing left to lose. Enjoying a life with no expectations or any rules. Not thinking about anything more than today.
For others, a small leg up will be most welcome. They will consider it an invitation to the future, their future, a better future.
They would welcome some rules as a small price to pay:
- Class attendance and passing grades the price of admission
- Separate girls and boys
- No smoking, drinking or drugs
- No gangs, no bullying, no fighting
- No loud music (use your earphones)
- Cellphones in a calling area only
- Lights out at a reasonable hour.
These kids will no longer be targets for judgments. It is not their fault, and no one is to blame. Blame is for losers. We do not heap blame upon the victims of a hurricane or tornado. We should not heap blame on these kids. Most of them just want an even playing field to show how smart they are, and how far they can go with a little help from their friends. In many ways, their success is harder to earn than their more fortunate schoolmates.
And for the kids who are doing okay, it would be a chance to act as a mentor and help these kids learn and progress in school. If they have clothes that have been passed down as far as down can go, or stuff they no longer wear, they can provide it to those in need. They can experience sharing and caring and learn the value of helping others. Of empathy. Of kindness. Again school is where we create the future. The question is, what do we want to teach kids about the kind of people we want them to be in our future?
Just an idea. Like this new idea of school. A place where we build the future of our nation. A nation where everyone has the opportunity to become the best they can be. A level playing field. For them. For us. For our future.