Our Future

by Brooke Miller, Cornell University

Posted in on Wednesday, Oct 7

Our Future

Eighty-six percent of U.S. public schools have experienced incidents of crime between 2005 and 2006. In 2005, approximately six percent of public school students between the ages of 12-18 claimed that they were afraid of attack or harm at school.

***

Georgia awakens to the blaring, trumpet like sound of her alarm clock. It is dark outside. Darkness fills the room like a blanket of shadows. There is only one small light that peeks through and cascades over the entrance of the doorway from the hall. It is 6:30am; it is time for round two of trying to get her children to arise from a profound slumber that seems to regularly catapult them into an endless abyss. She dreads this part of her morning routine because she knows that eventually she has to let go. She has to let go of her children and send them away. She is aware that there is a strong possibility that she may not see them again; nevertheless, she refuses to live in fear. Her favorite sayings are "Everything happens for a reason" and "God will find a way." She closes her eyes and clutches the cross on her necklace that she wears everyday. She walks into her sons' room and watches them while they sleep. Her heart flutters. She taps them, rubs their backs, and softly says, "Wake up, time to get ready for school." They groan as all children do at the very sound of that phrase. Finally, they wake up and proceed to start their daily routine. Georgia heads toward the kitchen and begins laying out all the cookware and utensils for her sons so that they can prepare breakfast. They have recently reached the age where they want to do everything themselves. Georgia returns to her room and hears a knock on the door; it is Jaylen, her oldest son. He enters the room with a look on his face that could cause a solar eclipse to occur on the sunniest of days, forcing her world to darken. He looks up at his mother and says, "I don't want to go back to that place. I shouldn't be there- no one should." Georgia looks at him. She knows what she wants to say but can not get the words out. They are lodged in her throat. Jaylen continues on to tell her what happened the previous day. "My history and P.E. teachers broke into a physical fight. They were just talking about vacations and the next thing I know, they were actually throwing each other around the room in front of us. Books and desks were soaring from one side of the room to the other. Then they went into the hallway. I have heard of this happening before but I had not seen it in person. All of the students spilled out of their classrooms and into the hallway to see if this was really happening. There was a sea of students in this long, poorly lit, narrow hallway. Everyone was pushing each other around and placing bets on who they thought was going to win. Water from the pipes kept dripping on my head. Someone knocked Denise's backpack off her back and when she turned around to pick it up, it was gone. She saw who took it and chased after them. When she caught up to them, they pulled out a razorblade on her. The teachers are starting to behave like the students. The two teachers were later led out of the building by the police. It's like something happens everyday. School is always unpredictable. Just last week a teacher took an iPod away from a student and in an attempt to get it back, the student waited for the teacher outside of his classroom and then put him in a headlock until he returned his iPod. The student eventually snapped the teacher's neck.... Mom, I don't think I can do this anymore. I'm trying but I don't see the point." Georgia sat on her bed with her eyes closed clutching her cross necklace. Once again, a lump had developed in her throat; thus, preventing her thoughts from leaving her mind. All she can do is gaze at the floor, she is searching for answers.

***

In the U.S., the current average expenditure per student for instructional materials in both public elementary and secondary schools is approximately $5,492.

***

The school bell rings and everyone explodes out of their classrooms excited because it is finally Friday. Elijah has a big exam coming up on Monday that has been weighing on his shoulders like camping equipment that has been soaked by the rain. He worries because his grades are important to him. He has dreams of being the first person in his family to attend college, but it has been a constant struggle for him because of his high school and its lack of funding. His school does not have enough space in the classrooms to accommodate all of its students. Many of his friends have dropped out of school because they no longer saw a reason to attend. They felt like just another number; like no one truly cared whether they stayed in school or not. His best friend, Shai, is in jail but is being released tonight. Elijah could hear the solitude and despair in his voice when they spoke on the phone; its emptiness made him shiver. Shai has a desire to rewind the past but is frustrated because he does not know how to change. He fell into the unpredictable grip of the streets. It can be as warm and inviting as a mother's hug, or it can change and become as temperamental as the weather, reacting without permission or cause. Many times Shai would ask Elijah to skip school and join him for "a day off" as he called it, but repeatedly Elijah would refuse because he knew what that really meant. He would be standing on the corner of North Broad and Olney Streets dealing drugs with him; nevertheless, he always wondered what would happen if he did go with his friend. Shai would always say, "I really don't see the point" and "What are you learning there anyway? Our books don't even have pages in them, and the ones that do are so old that you can barely read what it says." Elijah sits down and opens his biology textbook, it is so old that the thread that binds the pages has turned brown and become frayed. The edges of the book are worn. It is almost as if it had been set on fire but refused to burn. He turns to the review section--the words on the pages have been so rubbed out that all that remains are thumb prints and half of the page has been torn. It is impossible to read any of the words. He pushes the book away and reaches for the phone. Shai answers.

***

Complaints about the public school in your district can be directed primarily to your local school and then to your state department of education. No child's future should be jeopardized because of the unsafe learning environment and lack of funding that plagues many U.S. public schools.

1All statistical information was gathered from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) at http://nces.ed.gov/

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