No Time for Experiments on the Youth

Education, Memphis, police, Schools

The Memphis City School Board comes up with rather dumb ideas on a regular basis, so this new one shouldn’t really surprise anyone. But board member Kenneth Whalum outdid himself this time when he suggested that we build and open a high school to prepare young people for law enforcement. Apparently, it is apparent to Whalum that the only growth industry in Memphis’ future is crime, and therefore, to deal with the shortage of police and fire personnel (brought on in part by low pay and the city’s stupid residency rules), he proposes this law enforcement academy. Actually, the idea of trying to convince Black youth to join the ranks of law enforcement is nothing new, having been first proposed by Richard Nixon during his first term as president. That effort was a notable failure, as has been every effort since, for the simple fact that many Black youth have grown up in an environment where they see the world (rightly or wrongly) as a war between the police and Black people, and they have no interest in abandoning one side for the other. Perception becomes reality, and this attitude on the part of young Black Americans didn’t develop out of thin air, having received all too much credence from the behavior of SOME police officers. But my objection is more that, once again, we are accepting at face value the theory that Black youth cannot be expected to do academic work and prepare for a college career. Instead, we are told, we must lead them into some vocation, whether it be police work, or fire, or welding, or some other blue collar trade. None of these occupations is necessarily bad. All are needed and they pay well. The point is, we need to be giving Memphis’ inner city youth a general education to prepare them for whatever task they want to pursue in life, not a narrow education aimed at some specific field. Nothing is going to fix the Memphis City Schools short of adequate funding, encouraging integration, firing incompetent teachers, maintaining a safe school environment, and demanding accountability from both students and teachers. This has not been done in that district for years (if ever), and I see no signs that it’s about to start now. As for Memphis parents, let’s hope they send a clear message to the school board that they want no such experiments with their children as the guinea pigs.

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