The BP Gulf Coast oil disaster continues unabated. The gushing oil and gas are poisoning the gulf waters and polluting Louisiana’s coastal beaches in the most horrendous environmental catastrophe of the 21st century. This appears to be America’s Chernobyl. However, this incredible fouling of our nation’s waters and beaches pales in comparison to the degradation of our nation through the declining American educational system.
A startling fact is 1.3 million American youth will not participate in the traditional June high school graduation ceremonies in 2010. An average of 7,200 students every school day this year dropped out of school.
General Colin Powell, speaking on Sunday about the BP calamity, told Jake Tapper on ABC’s This Week that the U.S. government needs “to move quickly and move in with, to use my favorite expression, decisive force to demonstrate that it’s doing everything that it can.” Unfortunately, that is not the case for the Gulf oil disaster. Nor is it the case for dropout rates, as Colin Powell states in his work on this “moral catastrophe.”
I think one can assume once the oil gusher in the Gulf is stopped—perhaps we must await the relief wells’ completion in August—the ongoing clean-up will lead to a Gulf rebound in a decade or so. I am wondering if we have time to recover as a nation from the educational decline we continue to experience in America.
In scores of California districts, the school year is being reduced by up to five days due to our economic crisis. At the same time many other countries are investing heavily in their youth. Thank goodness for efforts like Gen. Powell’s Grad Nation, a multi-year campaign to encourage all Americans to contribute to the effort of increasing graduation rates to 90 percent in ten years, using this year’s 4th graders as the target class.
Right after the Powell’s launch of Grad Nation at the White House on March 1, the general told Good Morning America’s George Stephanopoulos that the dropout rate is not only a moral catastrophe, “it’s an economic problem…It’s a security problem.” To combat this trend the U.S. needs to muster all of its resources.
In Sunday’s interview, Powell reminded the viewers that 30 percent of all American youth do not graduate, and that 50 percent of Latino and African-American youth drop out of high school.
I have not heard yet how SJ2020 is positioned to be a partner with Grad Nation, but I will find out. To learn more on how you can help in increasing the graduation rates in our community go to http://www.americaspromise.org.
As I write this post on Memorial Day, I hope that all current high school students understand the importance of this day in our history. Formerly known as “Decoration Day,” it commemorates those who gave “the last full measure of devotion” to this country. I thank them for their courageous service. And, especially to the family of one of my favorite former middle school students, SPC Michael Mihalakis, who died in Baghdad, Iraq on Dec. 26, 2003 at age 18.