I have been in the business of education now for quite some time. Education. Business. Wow, I can’t believe that I would ever openly admit that what I love to do is a business to the public. But it seems that the public already knew and that the teachers are the ones just figuring it out. And even when we are faced with the harsh reality, we still down play this revelation by trying to minimize certain words. The word business, is not even remotely adequate enough to describe what education has become. Education is “big” business. I mean huge, gigantic, astronomical, gargantuan….. we (teachers)finally get the picture.
But let me tell you who figured it out and has known for quite some time now and has been long waiting with open arms, ready to embrace our most precious commodity. Those waiting arms belong to every criminal element one can imagine. The pusher, the prostitute, the pimp, the jack boys, the knee breakers, the gangsters and all those who stand in between the short walk from the perceived safety of the school and the harsh reality of the streets. What did they figure out about education and its “big business” reputation? They figured out that the resource or clientele are unhappy, especially in the areas where these criminal empires (for the most part) conduct their business.
Take any street corner in any urban community in our prosperous America and you will see that there is a constant battle for our children. Unfortunately, in many areas, the schools are losing. So what is the reason? Instant gratification. Our students want it now. No, our students need it now. The question now; what “it” is.
As a teen I can remember having a job my 8th and 9th grade year which was funded by the city through grants or allocations of funding through the budget. The money was great for a teenage student who was working during the summer time or after school for a few hours. By working I knew that I would be able to purchase things that I would need for the next school year or on day to day basis, plus I would be taking some of the burden from my mother. The job gave me instant gratification, and I only would have to wait until I got paid. I loved that job because it allowed me to steer clear of the many trappings that were certainly there. Those programs were life savers for some many of the kids in my community who were in similar situations. However and sadly, those summer an afternoon programs were cut out of budgets or allocated funds ran out and for those who came after us who were fortunate to have those opportunities, was nothing. Well, almost nothing.
So left waiting for those who came after me, again with outstretched arms, were all of those previous mentioned criminal elements. Waiting with promise of money, clothes, and all of the trappings but of course with no mention of the dangers. Even if the dangers would be mentioned, what they promised to give was instant gratification. For many these temptations of getting just the basics necessities (food, warmth, clean clothes, someone to listen to them) outweighs the consequences of their actions. I am telling there is something magical or maniacal about the power of hunger.
How does this harsh reality compare to the beloved educational system? Well I think we have a very formidable opponent. One who I really believe has an advantage right now, only because there is a refusal to make changes to the educational system by the powers’ that be attack strategy. Well maybe not attack, perhaps more of a counter attack. Because sadly, we as educators have been under attack for quite some time now. Our counter attack has to offer more than just the promise of a high school degree in 4-5 years if the student does what he/she is supposed to do. Many of our kids’ stomach is in need of food daily and it because harder and harder for him or her ignore the hunger pangs that are ever present. We have to put in place programs that will give monetary incentives to students, who despite their crumbling infrastructure (home or community) come to school each day and to try to seek that American dream or the piece of American pie. For those students, just to get to the table where the pie is has become almost unattainable. We have to put local, state, and federal officials to the task of finding and funding effective after school and summer programs which pays those students, who we know are more than likely to be victims of these criminal elements. There has to be just as strong of a recruitment effort as that the criminal elements who will not stop because there is a close in a congressional session. These criminal entities will not take one day off.
Teachers fight this battle each day and for some of us during the summer. Underpaid, over work, just so someday we will be able to witness our students succeed. We are prepared to wait for kids to come back and show us their success stories. That is our gratification. That is our satisfaction. Unfortunately, for many of our students, they can’t wait. They want wait. They need it now.
Question: With the recent cuts to education on the federal level, do you feel that the educational system is making progress are in need of drastic measures of reform?