As an extension of the previous two posts and others here, I feel I need to let readers know I'm well-qualified to make observations about young people. Although I never specifically intended to, I've spent most of my life teaching and guiding kids. Neighborhood parents started asking me to babysit their children when I was in junior high. When I couldn't find a summer job in high school, I saw a need for a morning day care service so moms could run errands and started one. (Hint to teens: I made good money with this.)
I continued my various childcare services during high school. I also did volunteer work with children through scouting programs. When my mother decided to become an early expert on gifted and talented education, I studied her course materials and helped her set up programs in schools statewide (in another state).
In college, I paid for about half of my tuition doing piano accompanying for music students. I also taught piano lessons to children of some of my professors when they asked me to do so. In one particularly memorable experience, I was asked to stay with the seven (!) children and frail grandmother of one of my professors for a week so he and his wife could attend a conference. (Thank heaven for their wonderful 16-year-old!) During graduate school, I visited local high schools doing lecturing and career counseling in my field as part of a program run by the research society Sigma Xi. (During one of these lectures, I was pleasantly surprised to run into one of my former piano students from a different state.) I also taught college labs at a major university as part of a teaching fellowship I was awarded. As part of my later work for the research lab of a major oil company, I trained affiliates from all over the globe.
After I had children of my own and moved to Central Texas, I began doing a great deal of volunteer work relating to young people. I helped start a new scout program at one of my children's schools and did merit badge boy scout seminars on request. I taught Sunday School and Bible School regularly at our church. Teachers at the local schools began asking me to teach various science units and give special class demonstrations. I mentored several high school science projects, all of which won state awards. Since all Texas students are required to pass an Algebra I exam in order to graduate, I've tutored lots of my children's friends in math over the years.
Because I am well-known to be caring and reliable, at one point I was contacted by a woman I didn't know and asked if I would give her son a ride to his after-school care or activities every day. I made sure this boy (now grown) got safely to his destination every day for over five years, not realizing until he eventually told me that he was the nephew of the local county sheriff.
As criminal activity has increased dramatically here over the years, I've witnessed firsthand the resultant dramatic increases in local social ills discussed in the editorial in a previous post. When I gave one requested lecture at school and discovered discipline problems so severe that teachers were unable to control their classrooms or teach, the principal offered to move my child to any other class I requested, but when I went and observed them, I found the problem was school-wide. (I immediately moved my child to a different school even though it meant a great deal more driving.)
The same students causing many of these problems back then are now young adults living in our community who have never been made to face any serious negative consequences from their behavior because of the way the community covers up for them. I can also assure you that every one of them is fully aware of the very high-level legal, political, and judicial protection available here just by knowing the right people.
As I've stated before, I feel very strongly that people who complain about problems should also take or at least propose steps towards solutions. Although I've done so much teaching over the years and have had many close friends who are educators, I've never taken any formal education classes. At one point, out of curiosity, I arranged to take the test used to certify elementary school teachers in Texas--and made a perfect score. (I guess my mother and my friends' knowledge must have rubbed off.) Unfortunately, however, the harassment from students and teachers and the lack of support from administrators (students continue to come and go from local classrooms and campuses pretty much at will, for example, and potential drop-outs know they can always simply stay on the roles at the local alternative school for a few months and be handed their diplomas without having to do much) make it impossible for me to teach anywhere here even if I was certified. (In Texas there is also a problem with loss of Social Security income due to state teacher retirement laws.)
In recent years I have been gradually forced to end most of my volunteer work because of the severe harassment, which I know for a fact is a loss to the community. For example, it's hard to accompany children at a music recital when you have half a dozen uniformed police officers laughing and talking loudly at the back of the room during the performances. I have so much knowledge and caring and so many unique life experiences to offer young people: I've been a delegate to an international Antarctic research symposium and been involved in the Antarctic research program; I've learned to rappel down sea cliffs and scuba dive as part of thesis work; I've taught and worked with people from all over the world and learned to appreciate them and their cultures; I've cared for mentally challenged children; I've taken lessons from a well-known concert pianist; I've lived from one end of the U.S. to the other in communities both large and small; and MUCH more (like teaching myself to blog?). Instead of trying to use some or all of this to their advantage, Central Texas has made it very clear they can't wait to be rid of me, and they delight in victimizing me as much as possible in the meantime.
I certainly can't fix what's wrong here, and it's reached the point where I don't even see people here being able to fix it; it will now almost certainly take massive outside help coming in forms most people here are not likely to view as positive. Until it comes, conditions here will continue to deteriorate and spread, locals will continue to endanger themselves and others, and the unique gifts, talents, and life experiences of ALL of us will continue to be wasted.