A challenge to those who don’t think the public school system is failing

Last night I went with the university Catholic student group (unusual for me I know) to the local Juvenile Detention Center. I’d recommend doing this to anyone who thinks that the public school system is doing a good job, or even someone who insists that public education is necessary. Watching these kids be ushered around the gym as though they were military cadets was surreal. Here’s a bet I’d be willing to make. Take a stop watch and a group of kindergardeners, time how long it takes them to make a circle when asked. Then time the juvenile inmates, when asked. I’ll bet you get something similar. When do the inmates fall behind on their time scores? When they are never asked to make a circle, instead they are marched by direction, a central planner, to line up in exactly the right places. It took almost five minutes.
Anyway, my impression of the kids was that it doesn’t take much to get them motivated and interested. You just have to try. These kids had no illusion about where they were and how much they disliked it, but they hated school as well. They said the learning environment in the facility was easier than outside. There was no choice but to pay attention and do the work. They hated school and when given the choice they weren’t going to go and all the choices that remained seemed to lead them here. These kids weren’t defective, they didn’t even seem to need much rehabilitation or anything. They needed motivation and inspiration. It all seemed like a big waist: a room full of talented and potentially motivated kids with no outlet.

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