Wednesday, May 26, 2010

68% - A Solid "D"!

If someone told you that the graduation rate for the Chicago Public Schools, within 5 Years, was 68% would be shocked? Or perhaps you'd think it not so bad.

Well, what if that was the highest rated demographic, which it is according to an anagraph of CPS graduation rateslysis of Illinois State Board of Education data? That demographic would be White female. The lowest graduation rate of any demographic was Black males at . . . 41%.

According to Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, "Lack of a diploma and solid work is the best predictor of ending up in jail." Not an earth shattering conclusion, but it should still be a call to action.

The complete data for the study shows just how ill prepared our youth are for the rigors of a competitive job market, and how our young men or all races are falling behind their female counterparts.

While the education debate often centers on the "gaps", our schools are becoming holding patterns for kids that will eventually feed the Prison Industrial Complex. Given this latest data, the raw materials for that industry are plentiful!

I read an article some time back titled "The Adoration of the Question." Essentially the author was lamenting about how we get stuck in our research, reporting, convening, discussion of issues (specifically the issue of our failure to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system), instead of taking action. Our failure as a community, as citizens and as individuals, to upgrade education as a priority is inexcusable.

As I've said before (but it's been a while since I blogged), our failure to educated our children is a moral, ethical, and even national security issue. Genius is unpredictable. Our next Einstein, Percy Julian, or Imhotep could be suffering from poorly motivated teachers and instead of providing the next miracle drug, delivering drugs in his neighborhood.

If not you, who . . . is going to make a difference?

Friday, January 8, 2010

I 'Had" A Dream . . .

Last night I had a dream that I was engaged in a serious debate about what type of support society should provide to those incarcerated for various crimes. And frankly I was losing badly.

My opponents (now in my awakened state faceless folks of mostly emotion and solid arguements), made a number of rational points, all difficult to refute or deny: "Nobody made them engage in criminal activity", "Others grow up in the same conditions and don't resort to criminal behavior", "Our resources should be used to support the law abiding . . . why should their health care be any better than ours?", and so on.

In this dream, as a result of this barrage, my head was swimming trying to figure out a way to make a sensible and convincing argument in favor of support. I considered the cost of incarceration to society, families, communities and individuals, especially over non-violent crimes like drug possession. I thought about the incredible challenges ex-offenders already face with finding a job with a living wage. I thought about the education/skill gap that could be addressed while incarcerated . . . if only the programs were there. And that last point was where I placed the stake . . .

One of the principle causes of the growing burden of prisoners and prisons on our society is really a fundamental outcome of the failure of our educational system.

In other words, we are spending an enormous amount of money incarcerating our population - the largest prison population of any country in the world - because we lack the foresite and commitment to adequately educate our people. Put another way, we are wasting our human capital at both ends of the spectrum. Instead of investing in the very resource that would help our country remain a leader in all areas of human endeavor, we are throwing our treasure away on prisons. And these prisons, year after year, turn out thousands of governmental/societal "dependents", the majoirty of whom will require the support of one program after another, few of which will provide the level of independence human beings need to thrive and contribute.

Instead of using third grade failure rates as a guage to determine how many prisons to be built, perhaps we should be using that same data as an indicator requiring an infusion of educational resources!