Archive for August, 2011

15
Aug
11

The Lower 48

It’s time to call it. We have lost a decade. Now is the time to sacrifice ourselves, tighten our belts, and save the future. When my grandchildren read about this time in history, I want them to be thankful we got something right. I sigh audibly or even gasp out loud every time new financial numbers are reported. Then I chuckle out loud when the revised no-need-to-panic numbers are released. It’s hard to imagine sustaining a more trying economy, but here’s a gasp-out-loud number – 48%. THAT is the graduation rate in our inner-city schools. I discovered this because our national average graduation rate is 70%, which I found to be unbelievably low since I don’t know a single high school drop out. For the record, the suburban and rural graduation rates average about 88%.

From my rural high school, I worked on a gang violence task force, and had a pretty solid, though distant, understanding of the plight of the inner-city student. As an adult, I took that knowledge and used it to ensure that my children had the best education available. I chose their superior (though under-funded) school and congratulated myself on avoiding those treacherous public schools. Then I slept really well, dreaming of the Ivy Leagues. I happen to have the inside scoop on my peers and I know they have behaved in a very similar manner, shaking their heads sadly over the drop-out tragedy that is not their problem.

I’m thinking now, though, that regardless of where my children go to school, this lackluster graduation rate is absolutely my problem. It may be our biggest problem, in fact. Our economy is in a death spiral. Inner city kids have met nothing but failure – their parents failed them, churches failed them, authorities failed them, and their schools fail them. Now, we have a hopeless situation that strips hope, dignity, and prosperity from a MAJORITY of this population. There is a solid MAJORITY of inner-city dwellers who will be incapable of supporting themselves. A MAJORITY will be dependent upon Government Assistance, turning the United States into a crippled welfare state.

The math is simple. A minority simply cannot support a majority. The problem, however, is complex. This problem cannot be funded into oblivion. We have a family unit that is unrecognizable, so there is no Focus on the Family for them. There is no support, no accountability, no discipline, and no hope for these children who don’t even have the stability to dread their tomorrows. It’s an emotional issue, and therefore open to exploitation, but it is too critical to be treated with such flippancy. This group is disappointed and angry. They carry bigger guns than the police, and they have the bravado of the hopeless. Revolution is the soup du jour, and though I don’t think our inner city children are going to overthrow the White House, I do think that we should keep an eye on the London riots. These youth expect more than the government can afford to provide right now and emotions run high throughout our country. They are surely more intelligent than their schools are capable of recognizing and unrest is imminent in a mind that is under-utilized.

If we are going to save this nation, it’s time to run clean-up. We’ve inherited so many unsavory problems that we are forced to deal with. Children, though, should never be treated as problems. In them, we find an opportunity to save a generation of indeterminate promise. Not only that, but access to a bright future may be the only thing that can save this bleeding nation.

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