Although he had failed the year before and could barely read, he was right about this. I’ve heard whispers of how much money a young man like him could make driving through the border checkpoint north of us in Falfurrias, and I must say it put my salary as a Texas schoolteacher to shame. It made the fight to keep him on the straight and narrow even harder.
He told me that if he didn’t pass his end-of-year state reading assessment, which determined whether or not he went to high school, he would drop out. This told me that he cared not just to do well, but to do what was right.
However, we knew, his classmates knew and our community knew that at some level, it didn’t make sense to struggle for the next half decade to graduate from high school functionally illiterate and conventionally unemployable.
As a student-reporter covering both fusion centers and the intersection between education and homeland security, my students’ voices always nagged me.
When a representative from the ACLU told me it just wasn’t cost-effective, in terms of preventing crime, to set up cameras all around the city, I thought of Roosevelt High School in Albany Park, which is full of young people who remind me of my own students. Last December, the wiring for the Internet in their building was so old it became a fire hazard and an entire lab was closed off to students.
When I wrote about a storm destroying an elementary school in Missouri, I thought about where my students would go if our building were ever damaged. The Missouri school was able to relocate to another building in the district that had room. My Texas district couldn’t build fast enough to keep up with the families coming across the border in search of a better life. A school could become overcrowded the very same year it was built.
As part of our U.S. Security and Civil Liberties course, I learned something which I must have already known: There is a finite amount of money and somewhere there are people who must decide what to do with it. In terms of homeland security, money goes where it is deemed by “experts” to help the most people from the biggest threats.
I just wonder how much of these decisions are made by the political leanings of these experts. The experts I point to say the border wall wouldn’t curb illegal immigration. And yet it went up, at least partially, right before my eyes.
The experts I know say that children who can’t read well are more likely to drop out, and these children are more likely to end up in jail later in life. I suspect this is a nice way to say they are more likely to engage in criminal activity and hurt/cost our nation. And yet, our schools are full of old, boring books.
I know that on a very basic level, if we are not safe as individuals and secure as a nation, it doesn’t much matter if we are incredibly well educated. Money must be spent on national security. But I worry that in protecting us from the outside without focusing on the inside, we run the risk of spontaneous internal combustion.
I also know that money is spent on monitoring the activities of Americans to make sure they are not up to something suspicious. Since I became aware of the suspicious cast on citizens who are critical of how things are, I have always mitigated potentially unpatriotic thoughts with: If you’re listening, this is a joke.
Today I add that if you are listening, we, insomuch as we can, are listening back.