Did you ever have a thought or series of thoughts that were so bothersome that you could not utter them in public or put them down on paper? I imagine that most of you have. There is something that has been stuck in my craw (that’s somewhere near my isle of Langerhans).
The more that I work with the kids in Jasper County, South Carolina; the more angry I get about how they are getting shafted. It appears that the “system” is set up to screw most of the students, no matter their background, their race, or ethnic background. I have not made a study of this state or any other state that surrounds South Carolina, but I will theorize that it is pretty much the same.
Last year, when I was working with 10 young men from the Ridgeland –Hardeeville High School, I became aware of what resources were not available to the school. The “Jasper Gentlemen” did not complain about the lack of materials or computers, or lab equipment, or even foreign teachers who were tough to understand. They could not know that there are places just across the county border which had all of those things, except for the foreign teachers.
The Jasper Gents have now graduated. They are mostly in college, with two saving money to go and one in the reserves to get college benefits from the army. I never really discussed the lack of materiel, both human and otherwise with them. I did not want to make them feel like they were being cheated, but they were.
This year, with the “Jasper Gentlemen II” I have deliberately chosen to meet with them individually from time to time. It is within those sessions that I learned two things. They do have some idea of what is missing and they are spectacularly bright. I did know that they were smart kids from the beginning. I had asked the Assistant Principal, last year, to give me 10 articulate young men. These were not always the top of the class, but he was right on the money.
This time, I asked last year’s Gents to give me the names of 10 articulate juniors and seniors. They far outdid their job. I guess I was so enamored of my own ability to help these guys, that I did not fully take notice of their capabilities. I have turned that around this year and the situation has been enlightening.
These young men are aware of what is going on in this world and in their community. They have opinions about most of the happenings in our country and in the world. They can actually tell you about a world leader that they admire. Not sure if they know where or what Aleppo is, but they can look it up.
I became so frustrated with how the state and the federal government treat these people. In other places, they would be looking at the best schools in the country and would be able to get in and thrive. I did ask the counselors if any of their former students went to Ivy League schools. Yes, they told me that one student went to Harvard.
I believe that some of the guys that I work with could actually achieve entry into one of those schools. Carol and I have made suggestions at the highest levels of government about how to spend a few bucks and give these young people access to, at least, the newest science equipment. I have mentioned, the “Science in Motion “van and another van to screen small children to catch their disabilities early. There is also some work that can be done to introduce some more AP courses into the curriculum. We have done that in PA, in some really rural places. We approached the College Board with an idea to get teachers trained for AP work. We got a grant from the Department of Education to do the training. Lo and behold, a number of rural schools accumulated more AP courses.
Infrastructure enhancements, including new buildings and the latest equipment have to be part of any overhaul of a school district. We have toured five rural school districts and the problems are about the same.
Someone has got to understand that underfunding these schools will keep the economy of SC, its roads and jobs in the backwater of our country. Yes, there are companies coming in to take advantage of the low wages, right to work (no unions), and low taxation. My experience is that can go on for just a small length of time. We need a trained workforce and some heavy duty economic development. none of that matters, however, if you don’t have a good educational system.