Solving the Classroom Crisis – Part III
Once in a blue moon, when a good idea comes along, like the Aerospace Academy, naturally I think of my children. I envision my 3-year olds flying a flight simulator from earth to mars, my 5-year olds assembling space craft model out of Lego blocks, and my first-graders putting together miniature parts of a space station, reading blueprints and matching pieces, in a classroom setting.
If space exploration is a part of our nation’s future, then our children should be educated today with the most advanced teaching tools now available.
But the idea of an Aerospace Academy is more than developing a future workforce for the aerospace industry. It provides us an opportunity to re-engineer our education system.
This morning I was introduced to the staff and children of a local Boys & Girls Club. I was amazed at the “controlled chaos” of an active learning-entertainment environment. These were mostly African-American children straight from the ‘hood. They were well behaved and totally engrossed in their activities.
I asked the supervisor why our public schools were not as well managed. “Well, we give children something they like to do,” he replied, something that has meaning and educational value. This how I perceive the curriculum for an aerospace academy. Learning can be fun. The key factor in the Boys & Girls Club program was staff, mostly minorities, who were well versed on the issues and problem of these inner-city kids’ lives. Knowing what makes students tick and what motivates them are fundamental to a good student-staff relationship.
Funny thing about the staff as I looked around- a person would have to look hard in order to find them, because they were so intermingled with the kids. (Why can’t public school teachers intermingle with their kids without molesting them?)
There were no sagging pants, no disrespectful language, and no non-sense. Every child seemed to be focused on a singular purpose in a self-disciplined way- whether the activity was art, computer, exercise, shooting pool, playing air hockey, or an academic tutorial class.
And just to think: These were not hand-picked poster children, but everyday at-risk kids who found the club to be a haven, only walking distance from home for most. Annual fee could be as low as $10. How do they do it?
The Boys & Girls Club model works. It is clean, safe, and well organized, all due to good leadership. “We treat these children as we would our own children,” said the supervisor. “In fact, one of the kids is my own.” And, this is the way he selects his staff.
My thoughts returned to the $1 million seed grant received by the Texas Workforce Solution to explore and develop the aerospace academy concept. My anger issue evolves around where it will be located whenever it is built. Will our economic target zone in the inner-city be squeezed out of consideration in favor of the more affluent school district?
If I have said it once, I will say it again: I want this local aerospace academy for our children.
Fort Worth, Texas has a healthy aerospace industry. But the workforce is aging, and new technology has changed the face of manufacturing. The new Boeing jetliner was designed and manufactured in an altogether different way, and snap-assembled like a Lego toy. We are on the brink of a new industrial revolution. Our local aerospace industry is in terrible need of a new type of workforce, a multi-skilled and well-educated workforce. But our education system is woefully behind the times.
Locally, we have done well to implement specialty training programs into our high schools. Now educators are beginning to look deeper as to where to begin. Do we begin at middle school level or elementary?
It is my opinion that we should have a curriculum that covers from birth to death, since learning is a lifelong experience. If we only consider education for the formative years (5-17 years old), then we miss the whole purpose of why we educate. We must provide adequate opportunity and resources to every child to become the best that they can be. As the Boys & Girls Club example points out, environment is not a problem when children have a haven and a refuge in which to learn.
The designers of the new education system must incorporate this concept of a “haven” into the learning environment, because no one can learn in the midst of hostile and violent environment. And, when their home life is violent, children need an escape. The Boys & Girls Club Coming Up program takes gang members wherever they are in life and sets them on a path of redemption. These gang bangers are not pressured into giving up their gang affiliation, but Coming Up is designed to re-socialize them into becoming productive members of society. So, they learn resume writing and other employment related and life skills.
[Next: The Virtual School Concept]