The Kids Are Alright

While I’m always leery of the supposed wisdom of children (kids can be real dicks), these D.C. students seem to have their heads screwed on right when it comes to the shortcomings of the D.C. educational system (boldface mine):

A high school band. More computers. Foreign-language classes beyond Spanish and French. Less teacher turnover. Sex education. Better cafeteria food.

Nearly three dozen high school students who met with D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson on Monday morning put these and other items on wish lists for their schools, part of an effort to help her shape the school system’s budget for next year. After years of concentrated investments in lower grades, Henderson has declared that next year will be “the year of the high school.”

Braswell Chappelle, the student body president at Anacostia High School, asked the chancellor for more opportunities to expose students to different careers and field trips to help them “get out of D.C. and see the real world.”

“We struggle to get students to know how college could be important in life,” said Chappelle, who donned a pink bow tie for the meeting at the school system’s headquarters….

A student from Cardozo, in Columbia Heights, said the band program had not been restarted after its director left. Students at Phelps ACE, a career-focused school in Northeast, asked for a Latin class and said they wanted to bring back some past programs, including for cosmetology and automotive skills. They also asked for a theater department and a JROTC program.

Dasia Kirkland said there are few elective courses at Coolidge High School in Ward 4. “We need more opportunities other than sports,” she said.

Students from School Without Walls, a highly regarded and selective school, spoke about overcrowding and how some classes have to meet in the cafeteria.

Keith Thomas and Taylor Lofton, students at Banneker High School, another popular application-only high school, said the school has no band program, few foreign-language classes and limited access to computers.

They say we’re the best, but we don’t have what they think we have,” Thomas said.

Students from at least three schools asked for sex education or free condoms, as they said teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases are problems at their schools. One 22-year-old mother who attends Roosevelt STAY, an alternative school, asked for day care for students in night school.

Basically, what these kids want is the stuff upper-middle class (mostly white) kids have. Broader academic opportunities. Adequate supplies. Decent classrooms. Extracurriculars. All of these things encourage kids to stay in school and perform well.

The last paragraph is also worth noting: to all the reformers who blather on about the ‘soft bigotry of low expectations’, some children do have more non-academic problems than others–and this will affect achievement. Some are the unlovely poor–and 72% of D.C. students qualify for reduced or free lunch: just getting them a degree, even four years after the fact is a victory.

Mind you, the students’ recommendations won’t help bust teachers unions, but kids these days…

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2 Responses to The Kids Are Alright

  1. I agree that many of these things (like band and computers) are things that white upper-middle class kids have access to but they don’t, but I’m a bit confused by “Foreign-language classes beyond Spanish and French” — what else do they want? Chinese? Those French and Spanish are typically the only options available to high schoolers — at least they were to me in the 1980s, in a good public high school.

  2. becca says:

    I also want to take Latin, automotive skills, and have free condoms! These ideas are *brilliant*.

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