Higher edumacation

I’m struggling with something that saddens me — not because it’s hopeless and not because I don’t understand the reasons for it. I just wish it didn’t exist — and wishes are sometimes useless and pointless things.

A family that lives across the street from us is really an extended family (6? 8? 10? I really don’t know, but it’s a big place). I’m sure it varies a bit from week to week. They are very nice people (mostly. I mean, the ones we’ve met are) and are hard-working and seem to be as honest as any of us. It’s one of those things we still see a lot of in New Orleans these days — in that one relative owns the place and all the other relatives (at least the ones who have come back) kinda share the wealth and expenses and the living space. We’re doing somewhat the same thing in this house, on a smaller level.

Among those in the house are three teenagers — a girl 18 (and pregnant) and her brothers 17 and about 15 or 16. All are enrolled in public school and all of them attend periodically. Or at least sometimes. They’re nice kids — affable, intelligent and conversant. More than so many kids, they’ve obviously been provided with a family environment that encourages curiosity and respect. So why do they concern me so much?

It’s because they are in high school with what amounts to a fifth- to sixth-grade education. And, if they manage to graduate, they will have a seventh-grade education. What they’ve managed to learn since elementary school has largely been from personal experience or because some teacher, at some point, pulled them aside to teach them something specific.

No, I’m not going to tee off on the New Orleans public schools. That large, slow-moving target is too impersonal and its problems are much too large and complex. I believe it indeed takes a village to raise kids and, too often, the village doesn’t give a rat’s ass. And so, after a while, the kids don’t give a rat’s ass. And too many of them are already too far gone.

I guess the point of this rambling entry is that if you have the time to volunteer in our schools, please do so. If you don’t, at least try to encourage the teens you come across to get enough education to break the cycle. I know there are a lot of shitty teachers and administrators out there. But there are also some very, very good ones who badly need help.

2 Comments so far

  1. Heatherlee (unregistered) on November 28th, 2006 @ 9:02 am

    With my new job (I guess it’s new…same job, new location, new boss), one of the downsides is I don’t have a lot of time anymore to check the blog. I had a moment today, so I did, and I am SO glad. I am reminded of how impressed I was with how your young adult son held his own at a dinner table full of 30 and 40 somethings. And I don’t mean by interjecting a comment here or there to make it seem as if he fit in – he truly did fit in.
    If the neighbors, you and my gorgeous Joey (TBK to you and eveyone else) keep doing what you’re doing with those kids, and keep encouraging others to do the same with the world’s children, maybe more will end up like your boy. I certainly hope so, he was a delightful dinner companion, and I wasn’t the only one at that table who thought so. I most definitely wasn’t the 1st one to say so.

  2. Editor B (unregistered) on November 28th, 2006 @ 1:03 pm

    We’ve always helped the neighbor kids with their homework and tried to incorporate a little education into everything we do with ’em. It’s fun.

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