Sunday, March 27, 2011

When Life Hands You A Lemon. . .

Some years back a songwriter known for odd titles like “When the Meat Wagon Comes for You”, and “You Ain’t Smokin That Cigar, Son, It’s Smoking You” wrote an original sing using a decidedly unoriginal idea: “When Life Hands You A Lemon, Make Lemonade”.  Personally I prefer the more recent idea of asking if you can trade it for a Suburu, or at the least, a nice, chilled Mojito, but it did set me to thinking.
Yeah, I know.  It scared me too at first, but I got over it.
This is the year that will celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the graduation of the Miami Carol City Senior High School Class of 1971.  Yes, I realize that there were other graduating classes that year, and possibly even one or two on June the 6th, 1971, the very day our class donned cap and gowns, and in at least one documented case, nothing else, marched across the barely air conditioned stage of the City of Miami Civic Auditorium, and were handed a rolled, ribbon-tied sheet of blank paper which we could exchange for the real thing with the return of our undamaged cap and gown, shook the principal’s hand, and emerged into the searingly bright sunlight of a steamy Florida Sunday afternoon as what would likely go down in history as the last graduating Florida high school class able to correctly read, interpret and properly use a a printed Florida election ballot, chads and all.  Over 80% of the group of students that entered our school as Sophomores that first day of high school in September 1968 finished three years later having run the race, crossed the finish line, and earned our official diploma, not including those Athletes who even then received a ‘get out school free’ card based more on athletic prowess than academic accomplishment.
When the Carol City Senior High School Class of 2011 gathers by no small coincidence in the quantum order of the universe on June 6th of this year to replicate the feat of their academic predecessors of forty years ago, their company is anticipated to be a disparaging 53% of the swarm of nanoprobes who infected the infrastructure of education in those memory filled hallways and classrooms of yesteryear in September of 2008.  A shocking 47% of the students who began their journey to adulthood  will have, by attrition, death, or just plain not caring enough to complete the task at hand, fallen by the wayside.  If math is not your strong suit, I’ll work it out for you (I’d considered saying ‘spell it out’, but that would be a decidedly mixed metaphor which even I find totally unacceptable).  Pay close attention boys and girls:


Forty years ago, when flower power was dying a slow death and the birth of  Disco lay in frightening obscurity over the horizon, the classrooms of my beloved school were staffed by educators who actually educated!  This was the age when teachers still assumed the responsibility to teach – to ensure that the education process had actually taken place.  They cared!  They challenged.  They encouraged. They did more than take attendance, and hand out a book or assignment. THEY TAUGHT!  And we learned.
Somewhere along the way, the system devolved.  When my own children were in school, it was the middle school years when teachers stopped teaching and handed the responsibility for learning over to the students, but the march toward disenfranchised education slipped steadily in the direction that moved the responsibility for learning to the hands of the learner a little earlier every new year.
Entire school systems and education systems were built on this strategy.  With each tick of the clock, more and more of the responsibility to learn was taken from the teachers and placed in the hands of the students.   And with this transfer of power, went also the ability of the teacher to maintain control of his or her classroom.   Add to this mix the unavoidable evolution of the uncontrolled mass of undisciplined minds and the fear of legal action for just doing your job, and the mindset of the educator slowly became one less concerned with teaching and more obsessed with tenure and making it until retirement.
And the end result is a graduating class half the size of the beginning class.  I’m not saying that the student bears no responsibility to learn any more than I’m suggesting that there are no longer teachers who care.
The system has failed both teacher and student.
47% won’t make it to the other side of their education!  As a society, we should be appalled.  We should be screaming for someone’s head on a platter.  But the sad truth of the matter is that we have seen the enemy and he is us.
Edmund Burk once said “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”  A more vernacularized version is “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
I suppose one might extrapolate that to say “All that is necessary for our children to fail is to abandon them to a system of education that puts them in charge while we stand back and watch.”
Forty years time, and the lemon that once produced lemonade has become a bitter, sour, unfulfilled dream.
Wake up, Miami.  The Miami Dade Education system that has abandoned its students under the guise of new, flashy buildings is a failure.  I’m calling you out.  You owe these children the education their parents have entrusted – elected, even, you to deliver to them.  I am a Carol City Graduate.  I am PROUD of my school, my teachers, my classmates and their accomplishments.
You owe it to this generation to give them that same pride, and right now, you’re just passing out lemons.
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