I spend a good deal of my time traveling the country trying to help reduce a problem that I believe holds much more of a “pandemic threat” to our national health and security than any sort of airborne flu bug mistakenly giving the pigs of North America a bad name.
Matter of fact, I am in Minneapolis, Minnesota right now getting ready to speak tomorrow at the IRA Annual conference to a few hundred folks about what can be done to assuage this very real “epidemic” and how we ought to go about doing it.
To what am I referring? America’s dropout crisis. Check out this article ripped right from today’s headlines on CNN.
Here are a few stats:
We lost 6.2 million students in 2007. (The year I was named California Teacher of the Year, mind you. Obviously, I wasn’t as effective an ambassador for staying in school as I aspired to be. Increasing YA literacy and reducing the dropout rate — for those of you who are familiar with my work — was my tentpole platform. But unfortunately, California had the most dropouts of any state: 710,000. I wonder if they want their plaque back.)
Most of the dropouts were Latino and Black. (Obviously, this illuminates America’s polarization as schools like mine, where there’s hardly any white kids, are suffering HUGE losses whereas students in the quite tony La Jolla area of San Diego probably aren’t seeing quite the same hasta-la-vista factor. NOTE: This is not meant to disparage La Jolla — I mean who wouldn’t want to live there. I’m just making a point about the iniquity so clearly apparent in public schools. But we shouldn’t be bringing La Jolla down… we should be bringing Lynwood up! As the article says, the “absence of new funding at the federal and state level since the 1980s has led to decades of disinvestment…”)
The report also says, “In the current global economy, having at least a high school diploma is a critical step for avoiding poverty, and a college degree is a prerequisite for a well-paying job,” the study says. “The costs of dropping out of high school today are substantial and have risen over time, especially for young men, who find it almost impossible to earn an adequate income to take care of themselves and their families.”
Do I even need to go on? Of course not. We all know the numbers. We all know the data. We all know the stats and implications.
So why don’t we do something. I mean we all recognize the collision course we are on for society if we keep these numbers up, right?
Sometimes, I simply feel like a little boy putting my finger in a dike.