After reading another article about what a failure those in popular media feel Milwaukee Public Schools has become, I began to think. In most articles and discussions, we see numbers and discuss statistics, but often never see and hear the real stories behind these numbers. All we hear is kids at MPS are doomed to fail, but I wonder what the real stories would tell us. My mind went quickly to the class of 2008. These young people would be graduating from a traditional four-year college or university this year. What are they up to these days.
As fourth graders they saw George W. Bush elected in the closest presidential election in a generation. As fifth graders they witnessed 9-11. During 6th grade they watched the DC snipers go on their rampages. As 7th graders they saw the first bombs dropped in the Iraq War. Their freshmen year, Pope John Paul II died and as sophomores, perhaps they were talking about the Patriot Act in their government classes. In 11th grade, they watched 11 people die as an eight-lane bridge in suburban Minneapolis failed and broke apart. As they prepared to graduate they watched Barack Obama become the first African American to be nominated for the presidency. In their young lives they have seen much.
Where are they now, is what I wonder most. Are they on track to graduate? Will their student loans swamp them with debt. Are they rocked by the looming prospect of not having a job waiting for them when they graduate? How many of them opted to enter the military and are coming home from Iraq? What I worry about most is how many never made it? These are the drop outs, teen mothers who have yet to finish school and those caught up in crime. How many of those students are no longer with us?
The true test of a community is how it educates its future. I know there are many of us who stare into the face of pundits who use statistics who say we will never get it right when it comes to education in this city. Many dedicated teachers and administrators spend many thankless hours dedicated to educating children in Milwaukee.
I will try to use my time and space here to tell the stories of those involved in the educational experience. Teachers, students, parents, graduates and those who are concerned about our children’s future. This year the class of 2012 will enter the “real world”. My hope is that they will be able to tell stories of success shaped by their experiences. I look forward to sharing these stories over the coming weeks and months.