The day before my trip to Argentina I served as a volunteer for "YMCA Youth in Government Day" (YIGD) at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul via the trade association I belong to called the Minnesota Government Relations Council (MGRC). MGRC was asked to provide a group of volunteer lobbyists to have lunch with the high school students serving as lobbyists during YIGD so we could explain the role of lobbyists in the government process.
After spending nearly three (3) hours talking with these students, answering their questions, and learning more about the YIGD program I was left with the following conclusions/questions:
- Don't these students' teachers discuss ANY appropriate current events during class? I wondered about this since not one of the students at my table had never heard of the name "Jack Abramoff" -- http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/01/16/abramoff.tm/ -- the super-lobbyist who is involved in a current national news story regarding the triangle of lobbying, gifts/dollars, and corruption that existed/did not exist between Abramoff and several Members of Congress.
- Today's students are either shy or are simply not well-prepared for such events as YIGD since the students I talked with did not have any prepared questions. It was a challenge for most of this event to get them engaged in a conversation beyond short sentences but at times they engaged such as when they talked about their student councils at their home schools (one was impressed with their council's "power" and another thought their council was a waste of time).
- Books -- I mentioned several books that I consider essential, basic texts for students of government but the students clearly had not been exposed to any of these books given their blank stares back to me. I will admit -- I failed to ask them what exactly they do in class and what books they have read to date -- next time I will do that!!
Every time I hear a public official, regulator, etc. declare at a press conference that the new "XYZ Program" they plan to create is "for the children" I get nauseous. It is a simple equation; if you want to do something for the children -- cut the income, payroll, property, sales, inheritance, capital gains, etc. TAXES that their parents have to pay.
Let's assume politicians took my advice -- what might parents do with all this extra disposible income? Assuming the parents want to improve their childrens' educational opportunities I suggest they help their local schools hire people such as --
1.) Bob Plunkett -- see my "Bob Plunkett" posting from September 2005 regarding a very high quality teacher I had in my high school
2.) Coach Larry McKenzie -- Patrick Henry High School mens' basketball team of Minneapolis, Minnesota
Since I have written extensively on Bob Plunkett let me focus on Coach McKenzie. My younger brother, Troy, mentioned the coach's "A+ Program" (see weblink mentioned earlier) to me because our hometown team in Iowa was playing Patrick Henry High School in a basketball game. The program stands for "Academics and Athletics" which stresses the need for his players to be genuine student athletes including requirements such as his players having to "sit in the front three rows of their classrooms." Overall it sounds like a very positive program especially since a very small proportion of high school athletes go on to play college sports and an even smaller proportion have professional sports careers so it is essential that these athletes focus on academics.
One additional bullet point I would suggest for Coach McKenzie's "A+" program is to have him work with the school's faculty to develop curriculum for his athletes. For starters I would offer the following classroom ideas:
- Develop a reading program of biographies (not autobiographies given their inherent bias and show biz slant) of famous athletes. I might suggest reading one on Pete Rose since he completely ruined his chances of entering the Baseball Hall of Fame due to his gambling addiction -- Michael Jordan might have benefited from a better understanding of the Rose experience.
- Work with science and math teachers to develop physics work examples based on sports such as velocity calculations of a baseball bat hitting a ball.
- Research -- have the students perform a statistics research project that analyzes college and professional athletes' careers using variables such as; crimes committed, life expectancy (I heard on the "Polichicks" radio program in Minneapolis, Minnesota on January 15th that professional football players live 10 years less on average compared to men overall), and the post-sports career jobs athletes have pursued.
I would not be surprised if some politician proposes the creation of day care centers in hospitals for new born babies so the government gets them "when they are young" -- now that I think about it this might offer a way to get the "abortion without any restrictions" crowd to oppose late term (such as in the 8th month of pregnancy) abortions so they can get more children into government day care centers :)
Please read to a child this week,