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Monday, February 19, 2007

Behind Bars, But Ahead of the Curve

I wouldn't say I was raised with a silver spoon in my mouth. But I didn't exactly want for anything either. My high school was in a relatively affluent suburb, the kind where kids get sports cars on their sixteenth birthday and take vacations to Teluride. I wasn't one of those. I had jobs as soon as my parents would let me. Nevertheless, I reaped the benefits of living amongst the upper middle class.

School always came fairly easy for me. I could have gotten straight A's if I had applied myself. Instead I spent my evenings watching Cheers reruns and playing on the computer. Still, I got enough AP credit under my belt to test out of my entire freshman year of college. I scraped by, always willing to settle for the highest grade with the least work. It wasn't until much later that I realized the magnitude of the opportunity I wasted, and even later when I realized that most others never get that opportunity to waste.

I read today of a program in Vermont that is succeeding under the worst of conditions. It is an experimental high school run by the state correction department. It specializes in catching kids before they fall through the last cracks. I don't know if I will have what it takes to make this kind of a difference, but I will certainly keep these teachers in mind.

Community High School Board member Dwight A. Davis said that when he asks inmates if anyone had ever taken an interest in their education, they say "no."

"As an educator, that's difficult for me to accept," Davis said. "A lot of our kids, if they had one caring adult, they would succeed. Unfortunately, they don't. If we can correct that we've corrected a gross error."

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