Friday’s Weekend Column
About a Minnesota Man Exploring Life in the South

Schools and the Poor

Obama Needs At Least One More Plan

by James Glaser
February 20, 2009

Washington has all sorts of plans to help our country with the mess we are in. We have a bailout plan to help Wall Street. Then we have an Automobile Company Plan to help out Detroit and the UAW. President Obama just signed a stimulus bill to fund his plan to help the States, the unemployed, the education sector, green energy... well almost everybody. Not really everybody, because I don't fit into any of his plans. Do you?

Now we are looking at a Foreclosure Plan that will help people who bought too much house for their income. Oh yeah, there was also an Insurance Industry plan to bailout AIG.

All these plans are fine and good, considering that we won't have to pay for them. We are borrowing the money, and when you look at how far in debt America was before the first of these plans took effect, you have to know we will all be dead when these new bills come due.

The trouble with these plans though is that they are not going to help the people who really need help. Those are the millions of Americans at the bottom. Way at the bottom are the homeless, and don't kid yourself that they are all adults on drugs or they are the people kicked out of our closed insane asylums. Plenty of the homeless people work jobs and get this, they have children living on the streets with them.

I'll tell you something. You grow up on the streets, and you are going to have such a bad attitude that you will end up in jail. I know I would.

When I moved to the South I was appalled that there are people living in America in houses that have no windows or doors. I have seen lots of them, and what you see are dirty old sheets that blow in the wind, but are probably able to be fastened to the window and door frames in bad weather.

I can't tell you how many single wide mobile homes I have seen down here that look like they are ready to fall in, but people are living in them. Some neighborhoods down here are scary in the day light, and there is no way I'm going to see what they are like at night.

Here is another thing that amazes me. I have seen more concertina and barbed wire down here than I saw in Vietnam.

Concertina wire is a type of barbed wire or razor wire that is formed in large coils which can be expanded like a concertina. Each coil actually consists of two oppositely wound helices which support each other against crushing while allowing easy longitudinal movement. In conjunction with plain barbed wire and steel pickets, it is used to form militarywire obstacles. During World War I soldiers manufactured concertina wire themselves, using ordinary barbed wire. Today it is factory made.

We have millions of Americans who are poor, and who are pissed. I don't know if this is true or not, but Florida seems to have a lot more poor people than we had in Northern Minnesota. I think a rule of thumb would be, poor people equals poor education. Here is a list of high School graduation rates for Florida last year.

The 2008 graduation rate by race was:
Asian — 84.2 percent
Black — 62.5 percent
Hispanic — 69.1 percent
White — 83.6 percent

Now Washington has all of these plans to help the economy, but where is the plan to help the poor? There is a reason we need to help the poor. These graduation rates are the best they have been in ten years in Florida, and Florida doesn't have the lowest rate in the country. Here is what ABC News reports:

In several of the largest school systems across the country — from Baltimore to Cleveland to Atlanta and Oakland, Calif. — half of the students are dropping out.

A recent study by the Department of Education found that 31 percent of American students were dropping out or failing to graduate in the nation's largest 100 public school districts.

The best I can figure out, about 400,000 kids drop out of school from each graduating class. In Florida, the State says it is between 30 and 40,000. I don't know why they don't know an exact number or at least a closer estimate. If you start adding those numbers up, you can see in another generation America is going to have a big problem. We have a big problem mow, but we solve that by keeping a lot of dropouts in jail. California is now showing us that answer will no longer work.

In ten years we will have about another 4 million high school dropouts. Here is what is happening now according to

The NAAL (National Assessment of Adult Literacy) administered tests which revealed that an estimated 14% of US residents would have extreme difficulty with reading and written comprehension. These people can legally be defined as illiterate. This could lead to numerous problems for these people now and in the future. When looking to apply for a job, there are forms that have to be filled out. Adults with literacy issues are unable to fill out these forms which decrease their chances of getting a job and raises unemployment issues.

So what does all of this mean? It means that our country is in bad shape. Yes, we have this big financial problem, but in truth that is nothing compared to our education problems. The poor, who are for the most part also the uneducated, are pretty upset with their lot in life. They look at all the plans Congress and President Barack Obama have put together, and they are asking themselves, where is the help for us?

The poor might not be able to read, but they can see the writing on the wall, and they know that there isn't going to be any money to help them out, and you know what? They are getting pissed.

We are no longer talking about pockets of poor and uneducated people, because they now number in the millions, probably in the tens of millions. I'll tell you what, when these people see that there is nothing for them in this new administration that they had pinned their hopes on, that anger is going to simmer and some time soon it will boil over. This time I believe these people are not going to riot and create mayham in their own neighborhoods, they have done that before.

This time poor people are going to go where the money is, or where they think it is. People in America without an education live without much hope of ever living the good life, but that "good life" is all around them. They see it driving by in Hummers and fancy sports cars. They see it in the movies and every night on television. Advertising tells them they can have it if they have the money, but they were born into poverty, and even though we have a black President, he didn't come from the "Hood, " and they know he is a multimillionaire.

We might think we have to fix our financial problems, but if we ignore our increasing numbers of poor people, that will be a mistake. Before I moved to the South, the poor were hidden from my view, much like they are hidden from our elected officials in Washington. Out of sight, out of mind. Well, those people found Washington for Barack Obama's inauguration, and they had their hopes raised higher than any time in their life, and so, Barack Obama better come up with one more plan... a plan for the poor and uneducated.

Free JavaScripts provided
by The JavaScript Source

BACK to the Essays.