Texting or Textbooks?
Yesterday’s New York Times reports that NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg has another plan to help poor and low-income students. Jennifer Medina writes, “The city is planning an intensive campaign that would use cell phones to help motivate students, most of them minorities and from poor families, in two dozen schools.” Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein said “How do you get people to think about achievement in communities where, for historical or other reasons, there isn’t necessarily demand for that?”
Also yesterday, three students from theWelfare Rights Initiative (WRI) gave presentations on access to college at the NYC Public High School 47. The school has a failing grade but you can’t tell it by the students, teachers or the graduation rate. The schools and teachers lack resources, not motivation -- something that just handing out cell phones isn't going to fix.
P.S. 47 students wanted to know about scholarships, grants, and the cost of tuition. None of the students, or teachers, for that matter, knew that CUNY offers significant tuition assistance to high school graduates in NYC. WRI had come to encourage students to come to CUNY, connect them to the community of WRI and CUNY and to share openly and honestly how we all got to college in spite of obstacles.
I wish Bloomberg and Klein had been at P.S. 47. I wish that Mayor Bloomberg saw his opportunities to change policies that impact students, their families and their futures as easily as he sees how to fiddle with students' behavior.
A student from this year’s WRI class, Chantale Soekhoe, is a junior at Hunter College and has a 3.8 G.P.A. She had this to say about the mayor’s new program,
“Policies such as the recent Education Incentive Initiative proposed by Bloomberg are exactly why I aspire to be a policy analyst. The flawed ideology in providing cell phones, celebrity text contacts, concert tickets, and other material goods in exchange for improved academic performance equates to bad policy. This devalues the promotion of education and further emphasizes extrinsic motivation in an already overly materialistic, money hungry, and consumerist society. Instead of hiring consultants and conferring with advertising agencies, Klein and Bloomberg should shift their focus to tackling the root cause of the issue which is why Black and Latino youth in 'hard pressed' neighborhoods are performing poorly in school. Monetary efforts should be poured into real assistance such as providing updated resources in under-funded schools, scholarships and grants, and educational opportunities. Sticking a band aid on a wound doesn’t allow for healing, it only covers the unsightly abrasion and puts it at risk of infection without the proper treatment. City officials need to recognize that this is the nature of this policy and seek alternatives that will actually address the issues in minority communities by making substantial long term investments in the social and economic health of their struggling residents.”
Another student in the class reminded me that we have to have resources in poor communities to create a level playing field. NYC’s playing field has to be leveled with the plow of good policies- cell phones are a band-aid approach.
Chantale has a good list of policy focuses and I have written in the past of others. Chantale and the rest of WRI are open to meet with the mayor to dialogue together on policies for economic security in NYC. Whenever you are ready, Mr. Mayor, just text us.