"Setting people up for failure," a rather harsh statement, but one that if we are honest, rings true too often.
We consistently preach that education is a necessary pursuit if someone wants to lead a happy and productive life. We tell our children that public education provides all American citizens with the same opportunities to learn, grow and become successful.
It is important to note that the student must be motivated to use those educational opportunities before him or her to achieve great things.
However, our schools are not equal nor are there opportunities for achievement present everywhere.
Some school districts in Suffolk County have dated textbooks and not enough books for each student. In addition to not having the tools, some districts cannot find licensed, certified teachers to teach and stay in their district.
What a sad commentary on public education that is supposed to be equally available to all and equally competent, no matter what the school district.
The New York State Department of Education has urged school districts to become tougher on attendance if students want to graduate with a valid regents high school diploma.
A number of school districts continue to negotiate with students to get them through. Oftentimes parents are left out of this loop. They are only officially notified when the student is in danger of being dropped from class.
Compassion and second chances are what I am all about. However, there has to be a bottom line that one does not cross. Deserving students deserve a second chance. Unfortunately, we have a growing number of students that do not value education.
Education is a gift and should be treated accordingly. When students cut or disrupt class on a regular basis, they impair the learning opportunities for everyone else in the class.
Pushing students along and moving them to the next level when they have not met the standards is unconscionable and potentially harmful for the student in question. We have too many students with high school diplomas who are functional illiterates.
Ultimately, we are not helping these students survive. We are setting them up for failure. It might be of greater service to them to sign them out of school so that they can get real jobs. Then they will see firsthand that independent living is hard and costly. Uneducated, unskilled young adults are not really employable.
Many of these unemployable teenagers want to walk into a fifteen or twenty dollar an hour job, even when they don't have basic high school skills. Forcing these students into the work force might cause them to wake up and appreciate the value of education. Then they might go back to school and use school as an opportunity to grow and become better.
To make our schools more positive for the growing number of students who lack traditional motivation to learn means shifting our educational paradigm and reviving the partnership that once existed between parents and teachers.
The paradigm shift demands that we acknowledge that perhaps every student cannot complete high school in four years. Maybe your son's model is four and half or even five years.
It also means we accept the "school as a gift" principle and don't tolerate absenteeism and destructive behavior. Schools cannot be wastelands of human potential, but rather should be environments that empower our children to become all that they can be in body, mind and spirit. To achieve that, parents must be in partnership with their children's teachers.
Setting people up for failure occurs in many arenas. JK is forty. He has been plagued with illness his entire life. As his body has broken down, he has never given up, but has always tried to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
JK is a pancreatic and kidney transplant recipient. He has been receiving Medicaid benefits and has not been sanctioned in any way by the Department of Social Services.
Recently, he changed his address and set up forwarding through the US postal service. As Medicaid mail is not forwarded, his case was closed.
Once he discovered this, he immediately went to DSS. He was told he had to re-apply from square one. He was given four pages of paperwork to complete. He was also told that he could receive vouchers for his prescriptions, if he provided original prescriptions or the medication bottles.
JK's doctors are located in Manhasset, making it difficult for him to provide original prescriptions. Some of his medications must be kept refrigerated, thus he cannot provide some of the bottles as proof.
The most disturbing part of this saga is that he was told by his worker that only ten people are interviewed per day. So, if he isn't there among the first ten, he won't be assisted. JK's medications are vital to his existence.
As I am writing this column, JK has two days before he begins to run out of medication. By the time you read this, it may be too late.
We have reached out to our political leadership to see if someone can intervene on his behalf.
The young man in question has never been sanctioned. He is doing everything he is being told to do, but is now being set up to fail by a system that is heavily burdened and understaffed.
The irony of all of this is that before writing this column, I spoke to a former Medicaid employee who informed me that it would take about a minute to pull up JK's records using the number on his benefits card.
If JK dies, who is responsible? Who will listen to his voice, as one of the growing number of the working poor who have no fixed address?