One of my students from last year dropped in during homeroom to give me a hug and ask "are you proud of me"? She was quiet, attentive, and pleasant until about November last year, at which point she started running the halls, fellating boys in
the stairwells, bangin' people in the eyepiece, vandalizing, and cussing out staff and fellow students.
In other words, she was an average 8th grader at The Book.
T's change in character last year was accompanied by an alarming change in hairstyle. She went from a carefully collected pony tail at the back of the head to a gigantic uneven Afro that was in four or five segments, each with a mind of its own. I often saw this striking calamity bobbing in the midst of a roving gang of unattended teens busy causing chaos in the halls. I thought frankly that this hair style was cool, but also emblematic of her mental state.
But yesterday she was back to the pony tail, she'd lost weight, and she had on a sharply pressed ROTC uniform. I see a lot of military recruitment signs in poor neighborhoods of B'more--I don't see them in the county, and often tell my kids "the military expects you to fail in school, that's why they target you. They know you'll drop out and need to join up to get job training. Stay in school!" But frankly I think ROTC can be good for many kids who have no discipline at home. I might not like the ways our military is used globally, but I'm not anti-military by any means. The U.S. Army is certainly better than the Crips or Bloods, which are the other most viable and lucrative options for job training on the West Side.
I'm all for a mandated year-long stint in the military or for some sort of civilian re-construction/community service corps for EVERYONE, right out of high school. I think it would have benefitted me. For this years' service (or two years?), you get college funding. T. definitely looked like a new person, and my home room was suitably impressed by her demeanor ("who dat Mr. G? She look cool!"). T. said she's passing all her classes at the Doug, something she was capable of last year but unfortunately we couldn't give her an environment conducive to learning.
We need something to re-establish a sense of community in this country, to rinse off the years of "me and my own over everyone else" created by two and a half decades of dominant right-wing bullshit. The Teach for America folk at my school are driven to help others, and they're all awesome talented people who could make twice as much money doing anything else. We need more opportunities like this for youngsters. I'm talking to you, President Obama!