Marion Brothers

Marion Brothers

Friday, July 13, 2007

Why Not an Aerospace Academy for our Children?

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]


  1. In Riverside, California there is a little-known high school that focuses on aerospace. It seems to be a really good motivator for some kids who would not do well in ordinary schools. I love the concept.

    I think a big part of the problem begins before the children are even born - with the teachers' college education. Many teachers get into an elitist and overly political "academia" mindset, rather than a parenting type of mindset and it affects the kids. Teachers are taught "this is how we do it," a university attitude that may be great to prepare them for business, but it doesn't work for relating to small children. Then public school administrators carry on that type of attitude and expect teachers to do so also. I'm starting to think we need a revolution on the college/university level.

  2. EG, I will be especially interested in your next post. I have homeschooled my children for several years and this year we are trying "virtual academy". It is actually considered a public charter school, so I am still somewhat leary.

    Anne is right, but I would broaden her last comments by saying we need an educational revolution period, but I do not think that will come to fruition without social and I don't see that happening anytime soon. We have too many drugs, too many broken homes, too much poverty, too many kids in foster care and too many monsters roaming at will...

  3. This is a hot topic.... we see our kids miss out on so much due to several factors, which could make this comment too long...

    I believe another element is also necessary in the education system - Hope. Yes, hope sometimes goes along with hoop dreams, but without it we can not envision the light at the end of the tunnel. I have been in many DC Public schools and have noticed the chaos that almost trains our kids to be prepared for an institutionalized future. Lack of respect, lack of agressive expectations, etc... breeds an environment that is almost impossible to be reengineered.

    I agree with you - the Boys and Girls Club is an amazing organization with an outstanding mission.

    Speaking of Space Programs, I was in on that payed my tuition while in college. Unfortunately while it benefited many, it was cancelled. I would love to see the upcoming program make it to our community. I would love to see more engineers, scientists, researchers among our community and our community's women.

  4. I think a big part of it is making education a bigger issue in our community. We usually focus on culture specific issues such as racial profileing and affirmative action. While these are important issues they can make conservative whites nervous. With education, we can get something thats vital to our communities success and enlist the without alienating the wider society. Our social action and civil action organizations need to focus more on eduation and things like taht aerospace school can become a reality for our children.