Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

MODEST PROPOSAL

Close schools, open playlands

October 23, 2005|Jervey Tervalon | Jervey Tervalon is a novelist and co-editor of "The Cocaine Chronicles."

INNER-CITY SCHOOLS largely fail at educating. Breaking through the bureaucracy to create better schools takes longer than many of these "at risk" kids have to live. So let's just shut the schools down and replace them with more humane institutions. Let's forget about the unrealistic goal of teaching and commit ourselves to keeping the kids busy for seven hours a day, five days a week at McDonald's Playlands of socialization.

Years ago, I taught at a quintessential inner-city high school in Los Angeles. I met amazing kids, college-bound kids. They learned eagerly.

But these brilliant students would have done well anyway. I could have led these indestructible students to a neighborhood library each day and simply told them to read, and they would have aced the SAT and held their own in Freshman Comp. But the bulk of the students -- then and now too, I'm told -- are the Joses and Lamonts and Keishas and Marias who lack the superhuman strength and drive to pay attention to Shakespeare sonnets when gunshots echo in the distance, who have trouble focusing on equations when the campus explodes in riots and sirens wail.

School to them is frustrating. Pointless. Their teachers try to project authority, but detention slips don't mean much to someone who has seen the efficiency of beatings and bullets as behavior modification tools.

Our education system has figured out a way to deal with these hard-to-focus youths. It tests the heck out of them until they stop coming to school. Secretly, we think these kids deserve their fate. But we can't bear to think of ourselves as inhumane.

So let's stop torturing our impoverished youth and offer them safe places to hang out, watch movies and make wallets -- year-round inner-city day camps. Let's close the schools and open our minds to the prospect that poor children will be left behind.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|