Everyday I read the Washington DC news, and what also seems like everyday, I am painfully forced to read about the death of some young person; often followed by the life and family destructive incarceration of the perpetrator(s). One day I was reading a story about a young murder victim at a family BBQ, when I realized that the murdered youth was one of my former Phelps ACE students; all I had left were thoughts and tears.
I admire Councilman Trayon White for bringing a passionate concern to this issue. But how did these young people reach such a desperate level of despair and hopelessness? Why do they feel that a human life (including their own), is so meaning and purpose less?
And to be fair to DC, we can replace DC with the names of many different American cities. And so, how do so many adults, allow so many of their children to live daily in, and in fear of, death?
A good education can’t give the all and everything in life; but it at least knocks on, and has the capacity to open, the door of hopefulness…
Now, I know that the folks in Washington DC don’t want to hear (at least not from me), what I desperately tried and failed to explain for 5 years. That until we provide the young Black and Latino Washingtonians, and especially those children living in Ward 8 with a reason to have hope in a future life, then a future life will not be something they will cherish and honor for themselves, or for those who look like them.
No child is born a violent murderer, and no child should grow up as a negative ‘odds on favorite’ to become a victim of violence! But it is also true that if young people are exposed to a fraudulent or ineffective learning experience; then the possibility increases that they will find themselves at the end of their adolescent period without the necessary set of job-ready-marketable skills, and therefore unable to see a hopeful path forward.
This means, that not only must their high school diploma be ‘legitimate’, it must also be authentically rigorous and consistently competitive with our nation’s best high school graduation standards.
Anything less, opens these young people to half and desperate living conditions,’alternative economy’ job seeking, drowning emotionally, and (unfortunately sometimes dying) in a sea of hopelessness.
Michael A. Johnson has served as a public school teacher, Science Skills Center director, principal, and a school district superintendent. He also served as an adjunct professor of Science Education in the School of Education at St. John’s University. He recently completed book on high school leadership: Report to the Principal’s Office: Tools for Building Successful High School Administrative Leadership… http://reporttotheprincipalsoffice.net/