Saturday, August 22, 2009

“Invest Wisely in a Woman Today”

“The liberation of women could help solve many of the world’s problems, from poverty to child mortality to terrorism.”

This is the lead in to a news story from the New York Times found here. It is a great story and one with which I agree.

However, on my mind for the past few weeks has been the dilemma of public school and education in our own hometowns. This is mainly due to the fact that we have a thirteen year old in 8th grade in the Saint Louis Public Schools.

Living in Texas, rural Texas at that, we were well aware of the problems of public school and the inadequacies to meet both the red tape for the state and the needs of the child. The whole idea is rather oxymoronic, actually. (if that is a word) One cannot meet both the needs of a bureaucracy which is wasteful and self absorbed and the needs of a child who is under nourished both emotionally and physically.

Then there was Dallas. Its public school district had extreme problems. Most problems seemed to be between the growing Hispanic population and the Black population which was feeling very jilted due to the rapid growth of the Hispanic population. Dallas was under threat of losing their accreditation when we left Texas. I have heard similar horror stories of New York City. I can actually speak to the issues here in Saint Louis.

The schools here serve a major purpose -- they feed kids twice per day and keep kids off of the street. At the magnet school Tucker attends, the attendance rate is fairly good -- around 92%. That means that a great number of city kids get at least two meal per day. During summer there is a summer session - although they have classes, this session is again a source of food and busy work for many of those attending.

Anyone who has any type of money or religious connections in St. Louis has their child in either a private or parochial school. IF a child must be in public school, then the only option is to be in a magnet school. IF a child has provable test scores showing that the child has an IQ above 120 then that special child can go into the special magnet school for gifted kids. If not, so sorry, too bad. If you are poor white, poor black, or pink or are stuck with what is available. Tough stuff.

The kids have to go through metal detectors each and every single day. They cannot carry their backpacks from class to class. They can't even take their books home at night UNLESS there is a specific assignment that they must have the book to complete. Otherwise, the books stay in the classroom. So many rules. Still, bullying and fighting go on. It is difficult if there is a child (or dozens) who have one special need or another. It is mob control at its best. It is chaos or hell to those who do not do well with confusion and noise.

Ok, so why did this article trigger this little bit of rhetoric?

Because we have a crisis in the US that is a disaster in the making. We are cultivating an elite group of well heeled educated young people. We are cultivating a large group of undereducated minorities. We are developing a ruling class and a class waiting to be ruled. Yes, this has been going on for a long time but look at where it is happening -- in the largest cities in the US -- NYC, St. Louis, Dallas...I know these for sure. I would imagine that the same is true for Chicago, LA, Houston and oh so many more.

What are we doing to our children? Will women in Burundi or Pakistan save our children in the US? Why can't we work at the liberation of the women in the US – the "mules of society" as Zora Neale Hurston called them -- the Black women of the United States? What woes would be cured if they did not have the difficulties they have? How are their problems any more their own fault than are the problems of the women in Burundi, et al?

And then, let us talk about the Latina women all over the US. What about them? How many educated Hispanics do any of us know? How many even finish high school? The dropout age for a Latina in Texas happens around the 9th grade. College is only a dream for them.

And then, when we are finished talking about the "minorities" which are not really minor at all, how about all those women in impoverished rural areas? What about the women of Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi or Louisiana?

What about these women of all colors in the US? What about them? Or do we expect them, since they live in the great United States of America, to just pull themselves up by their own bootstraps out of the muck and mire?

If women are so vital to the health and well being of our world – and I do agree that they are – how could they help this situation of our undereducated masses? What could they change if they were given the chance? Could they stop the disaster that is building?

I am not against these programs that help women all over the world. It is good and of course, whatever good is done in one place will radiate good from that point.

I’m just saying…instead of shaking our heads and shrugging our shoulders about the women in our own cities and towns, why don’t we “invest wisely” in all of them today? It might solve the whole problem here in our public education systems. Then look how many there would be to help in other parts of the world.

Friday, August 14, 2009

"O God of Justice and Compassion"

“O God of justice and compassion, who put down the proud and the mighty from their place, and lift up the poor and afflicted: We give you thanks for your faithful witness Jonathan Myrick Daniels, who, in the midst of injustice and violence, risked and gave his life for another; and we pray that we, following his example, may make no peace with oppression; through Jesus Christ the just one: who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.”

Psalm 85:7-13, Galatians 3:22-28, Luke 1:46-55

On August 14, 1965, the day Jonathan Daniels was arrested for picketing local businesses, I was twelve days from turning twelve years old. Many things were changing in my young life, but the issue of Civil Rights was not one of them. The death of a white boy in Alabama did not have much chance of resonating in my pre-teen rural Texas life. I lived on a ranch outside of Comanche, Texas. The town was very white oriented, even to the point of the big tree on the square referred to more often than not as the “Hanging Tree.”

The official myth behind the tree was that long ago it stood there during a raid by a group of Comanche Indians on the little settlement. Every person in the town was killed that day, except for one boy. He had the foresight to climb high in the tree and was quiet enough to be invisible to those trying to rid the land of the white interlopers. That is the official story of the tree. Yet, to its shame, it was also the site of numerous hangings of young black men further along in history.

It is not as though I was unaware of injustice. I knew it for what it was. It lived in many instances of everyday life. Yet the news of Jonathan Myrick Daniels’ death in Alabama did not penetrate my reality.

Playing the game of ‘What If?’ is rarely a worthwhile thing to play. Yet, if I did play it, I would like to think that had I known, had I been just a little older, I would have been motivated much as Jon Daniels was.

But that was then and it hardly matters what I might have done had I the chance. The only question worth asking today is, “What am I doing now?”

Often, I think – a lot! But always, at my core, I know it is not THE thing and it is far, far from enough.

I do not know what call lies ahead of me. But I do believe this: “the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.” (Galatians 3:23-26) Therefore I am subject first and foremost to my faith that God will guide me, today, tomorrow and the next.

So, I know the answer.

It has to be the same as Jonathan Daniels’, “I knew then that I must go…”