“…for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”   (Matthew 6:21, NKJV).

Add me to the list of people impressed by the work of Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem Children’s Zone, especially after listening to the Sept. 15th interview with him on NPR’s Fresh Air program.

In contrast to the “cradle-to-prison pipeline” (so well-documented by organizations such as Children’s Defense Fund) in which too many African American youths, especially males, find themselves, Canada and HCZ helped build a pipeline to success that provides supports for children from pre-natal through college, cutting off the negative influences that so often undermine well-intentioned but piecemeal help programs. HCZ boasts impressive results backed by meticulously gathered data (yes, including standardized test data).

Of course, all this comes at a price (although, I love Canada’s highly accurate observation that HCZ accomplishes its goals for less than it currently costs to provide incarceration for persons within the same geographic area HCZ serves). The work of HCZ is funded almost entirely through private (including large corporate) donations.

So what if….

…programs like HCZ were implemented in other high-needs areas–urban and rural–not as a special program but as the basic approach to public education in the 21st century? 

What would that require?

  • Untying the hands of teachers and administrators who actually want to teach children;
  • Recognizing parents as not only partners, but CEO’s in the education of their children; and providing poor parents the tools to make informed choices about their children’s futures;
  • Re-establishing (as HCZ has) a culture of academic achievement and personal responsibility among African American youth;
  • Consolidation and coordination of community, medical, and social services in and around schools for those students who do not have access to such resource; and
  • Reallocation of finances currently spent on ineffective, excessive incarcerations; pet pork projects; or corporate profit protection (er, uh, I mean economic stabilization).

President Bush stated in his radio address explaining the unprecedented government bailout of faltering Wall Street giants, “Given the precarious state of our financial markets and their vital importance to the daily lives of the American people, government intervention is not only warranted, it is essential.”

Are the children of our inner cities and rural areas any less vital or their situation any less precarious than that of AIG or Bear-Stearns?

(Image Credit: Me. My mother with her two youngest granddaughters at their high school graduation).

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