Sunday, September 6, 2009

When it comes to 'these kids," it's time for every adult to help

I've gained a lot of valuable insight from these visits, but one I'll always remember is my trip to Dodge Elementary School in my hometown of Chicago. I was talking to one of the young teachers there about the challenges they faced, and she mentioned what she called the "These Kids Syndrome" - the willingness of society to find a million excuses for why "these kids" can't learn. It's the idea that "these kids come from tough backgrounds" or that "these kids are too far behind." And after awhile, "these kids" become somebody else's problem.
Then she said to me, "When I hear that term, it drives me nuts. They're not 'these kids.' They're our kids."

Barack Obama

As Barack Obama is scheduled to speak Tuesday to public school students everywhere, I am amazed at how conservative politicians have made this a hot topic.
Please note I am not a big Obama supporter, especially with his bank bailout program. However, his efforts to speak to our public school students this week is not one that should infuriate those politically opposed to his fiscal agenda.
We Americans should collectively look at the state of our education, not in the context of the quality of education our students are getting today, but what are we doing to help our future leaders understand the demands of the job market.
I am amazed at the many adults who don't speak to their children, their relatives and others who are in school about what is needed for them to get a job that pays well.
As a volunteer, I mentor one 19-year-old who will soon get his release from a Texas Youth Commission halfway house. This young man wants to work on cars, but he doesn't know that to get certified as an auto mechanic that he needs more education after completing his high school degree.
Just this week, I met a waitress who needed two classes to complete her accounting degree at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She realized that she wanted to work as a graphic designer in her father's business, and she didn't see how having an accounting degree could help. Having a business degree could only help her father manage the business, I told her.
Americans, especially those who have many years of business, government or educational experience, need to help mentor "these kids." It's up to us to guide not only our immediate family - our children, relatives and friends about career aspirations but to reach out to others who need a sounding board and some good advice. In short, we need to become "job champions" for them and to help guide them on the types of college or technical courses that help them achieve their goals.
Instead of criticizing Obama for taking the initiative to encourage our future generation to buckle done, study hard and make something of themselves, America's conservative faction should instead agree with him and spend their time not criticizing him in public for this insightful speech but instead help "these kids" find the career path that will make them productive, happy and successful.

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