Monday, November 1, 2010

Making It Work

Tonight I thoroughly enjoyed the commanding presence of Dr. Pedro Noguera as he spoke about troubling social trends in the public school system of the Untied States. Dr. Noguera is man who has dedicated his life to ensuring students, namely of color, develop as they rightfully should academically. He has made trips to underperforming schools around the country in an effort to raise them from their dumping ground statuses. After a plentiful amount of observation, he provided many interesting points. These points include that luck (having a good family who receives a respectable income and has educational history) plays a significant role in student success rates and that the people who devote all their time and effort into helping this problem are not doing their jobs effectively.

Dr. Noguera suggests that the more fortunate members of society (YOU and ME) need to make use of their resources to better those without the means to succeed (the unlucky). I thought this notion tied in superbly with Stephanie Shapiro’s Serving Up Hope, which is about husband and wife Galen and Bridget Sampson who did just what Dr. Noguera preached this evening. The couple own Dogwood Deli, a restaurant that strongly exudes a commitment to social justice by hiring former drug users and convicts to prominent roles. While the article and Dr. Noguera’s lecture are not exactly similar in content, they share rich similarities thru underlying messages. Dr. Noguera stressed the importance of having a plan to improve and not just temporarily remedying problems. Dogwood Deli is putting a plan that is proving successful into action and it is bridging the misconnection between policy and reality together. The Sampson’s are giving these people a fresh start in life. “Sampson is creating a sorely needed avenue for men and women transitioning back to society.” (2)

As previously mentioned, something that Dr. Noguera stressed was the incompetence of the people who are supposed to be “helping the cause.” Dr. Noguera referenced New York and their school rating system endorsed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg and his chancellor said that they would shutdown schools with an “F” rating. Dr. Noguera fully sanctions the system but stated that the execution is poor. Chancellors are not hired to shutdown schools, but to improve them. He went on to say that these schools are designed to fail because the most needy students are being grouped together with the most inept teachers. I fully agree with Dr. Noguera. Before the lecture I thought that this was an excellent approach by Bloomberg, something I would even suggest myself if given the chance. However he made me ask myself, “what is that really doing?” The schools will just be reopened and branded again. Incorporating the actions of the Sampson’s, making it work needs work from us and simply covering up the problem is not a real solution.

The most important lesson that I learned from walking out of McGuire Hall was that the public school system of our country is far from perfect. People like Dr. Noguera have the right idea and the more people like Galen and Bridget Sampson who step up and make a difference, the sooner perfect can be reached. There are a lot of inner-city students who want to learn and succeed, but they are born into situations where the chances are stacked up against them. The obstacles are too much to handle, even if there are Cinderella stories here and there, they are just that, Cinderella stories.

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