Calling All Generals

As I was driving into work yesterday (listening, as always, to NPR) I heard a story about the Los Angeles Unified School District’s decision to allow Green Dot to take over Locke High School in Watts. As I listened to the how and why the change was made, I couldn’t help but think about the types of leaders who had passed through the halls of that high school. What were their flaws? What decisions – or indecisions – lead the school to such a miserable state? Why didn’t one of them act differently than the textbooks suggest? I then began to think of what I might have done if I ever inherit a school so poorly run and in a state of disaster. Then I dreamed myself a world leader pretend.

When is a dictatorship – outright authoritarianism – right for a community? Seems to me that in times of great turmoil and community insecurity, heavy handed and hard lined approaches work, if only to create systematic stability that will then allow for the installment of a new regime founded in progress of new ideas and opportunities once the period of strict control is used. Think of the dictatorial actions of our past presidents and congress during the struggles of their eras.

Of course I’m not advocating for lifelong dictatorial rule or the use of unethical and immoral actions to justify the ends, but I am suggesting that sometimes the collaborative, cooperative, “let’s all work together” paradigm is fruitless, especially when speaking of broken systems where years of decay, degradation, neglect, and outright indifference to the plight of others has been commonplace. Since I operate well in the political frame, maybe this is just my natural tendency – utilizing and exerting authority is not something I like to do, but I do recognize its use and need in all situations.

Maybe if less philosophers ran inner city schools those kids would be provided with safer, more orderly environments. At least two generations of ill educated children were dragged through the Locke High School system. Their graduation rate was never over 50% in the last 10 years. When was someone going to forgo the niceities and start getting real?

The world needs philosophers and dreamers (God knows I am one), but we are only able to perform and sow when the battleground has been secured and the fields properly plowed. For this, we call on Pattons, not platitudes.

Author: Michael Parent, Ed.D

Father, husband, school administrator in NJ. "Education cures poverty".

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