Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Some Numbers

Adult schools are not new. They are not something that started in the "crazy" 1960s or in the New Deal 1930s. They over 150 years ago.

The first "evening school" to teach adults elementary basic skills and vocational training and teach English to immigrants started in San Francisco in 1956 in a church basement.

Other evening schools were estabilish in Oakland in 1871, Sacramento in 1872 and Los Angeles in 1887.

Will we still have them 2087?

Or even 2020?

That remains to be seen.

Do we need them?



Take a look at these numbers:

One in five adults in California lacks a high school diploma or GED.

The unemployment rate is nearly 11%.

20% of Californians speak English "less than very well."

Nearly half of Latino and African American students do not graduate from high school.

Ever try to create a strong, modern economy with labor that lacks basic math and reading skills?

Ever get into a car accident with someone who can't speak English?

Ever try to teach a class of kids whose parents speak little English and can't understand what their children need to study at home?

Ever try to deal with difficult social challenges in a culture where many people don't speak the same language?

Ever wonder why California spends more and more on prisons but less and less on schools?

California should be expanding, not defunding, adult education.

More numbers:

In the 1998-99 school year, there were 1,555,88 adult school students.

In 2011-12, there are approximately 700,000 adult school students.

And after 2012, we may be down to 350,000 to 400,000 students.

What about the other thousands of people who lack high school diplomas or GEDs, can't read or do basic math, can't speak English well, and need vocational skills?

Exactly how will they be making this state a better place to live, work, and share a life with?

Because we do share a life with them.

No matter where we live, in the farthest reaches of the Sierra, the most remote part of Death Valley, or the most securely gated community along the coastline, we are sharing a life with everyone who lives here. Sharing resources, tax revenue, freeways, schools, hospitals, courts, air and water with everyone who lives here.

Even if we hate every other person who lives in this state, even if we believe they deserve their wretchedness, even if we are happy they are unhappy, how exactly are we making our life better by making their life worse?

Not only is the educational system in California like a four-legged chair, our life here is, too.

Make life wretched for others, and soon enough we find we're no longer sitting at the top of the heap, but are amidst a wreckage we ourselves caused.

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