I’ve been reading the comments to this blog post by an inner-city teacher for the last few days. The major discussion is about whether or not it is right to separate students who care about their education from those who do not want to be in school. Good points have been made on both sides, but the excerpt below (from comment 126) really makes sense to me.
Charter Schools aren’t always the answer. Children who have experienced gun violence, house fires, abusive parents, gangs, hunger – are not going to be able to learn whether they are in a charter school or public school.
We need to declare war on the inner city – not Iraq. We need to make our children safe, warm and nourished if they are to succeed in school.
The first step towards having an educated populace is making that populace feel that they can get an education safely. This is an American freedom: are the kids and adults in the inner city able to achieve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Or are they limited by the devastation they see around them every day? If you don’t see anyone around you achieving anything, it makes you think nothing can be achieved.
We should declare war on the inner city. We should make the entire country safe for our children. I can’t see any argument against this–when we have problems like this in our own country (people losing faith in the economy, people losing faith in the public schools, people losing faith in themselves, people losing faith in students because of how they act), we should act to fix them. This means eliminating gang violence. This means eliminating any sort of criminal activity.
It also means more investment in education. It means offering courses (with childcare) for people who never finished high school. It means engaging the youth before they decide that hanging out on the street corner is more exciting than Edgar Allen Poe, mitochondria, or astronomy.
Destroying the inner city means making people proud of where they live, not because it makes them tough but because it’s their home. It means enforcing building codes and keeping street lights prepared [In good repair? 2014-02-07]. It means making sure that our police force is synonymous with honesty and integrity, not with power and corruption.
This will take time, and it will take money. I for one am willing to donate that time (by volunteering and teaching) and money (yes, even if it means a tax increase) if we can build a country where everyone is free, everyone can feel safe, and everyone can get an education regardless of their circumstance.
UPDATE: Thomas Friedman is saying the same thing.