Wednesday, July 17, 2013

What Really Killed Trayvon: Failing Public Schools

When President Obama proclaimed "You know, if I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon", he unnecessarily politicized a tragic event. He also completely missed the point.

Growing up, Barack Obama enjoyed many advantages that many African American children will never know. He attended the prestigious Punahou Academy where he was one of only three black students. Barack Obama then went on to attend Occidental College and Columbia University.

President Obama's children attend the very exclusive Sidwell Friend's School in Washington D.C. Despite this school's Quaker roots, it has no fewer than 11 security guards, not including secret service agents. Hardly a run-of-the-mill inner city education.

Yes, if Trayvon Martin had instead been named Trayvon Obama, he might have looked the same, but he would have led a very different life.

Instead of the exclusive schools the President enjoyed and his children enjoy, Trayvon Martin was suspended from the Dr. Michael M. Krop High School in the urban Miami-Dade School District. In 2011, his Junior year of High School, Trayvon was found to be committing burglary. He could have been charged for these crimes in the juvenile system, but instead, because of a policy designed to make it seem as though the crime rate in the school district had gone down, he was suspended and forced to move 200 miles away. This would take him to the town where his unfortunate collision with George Zimmerman took place.

I'm not naive enough to believe that going into the juvenile criminal justice system would have saved Trayvon Martin. Likely, it would have led to a lifetime of trouble with the law at best, or, in a worst case scenario, a similar situation where his life would be ended in violence. We have a "Justice System" that focuses too heavily on punishment and not enough on rehabilitation. Why? Because it makes for better politics...but this is a topic for another day.

I cannot help but wonder what might have happened to Trayvon if he had been given an opportunity to attend one of the same prestigious schools that Barack Obama or his children have taken advantage of. I wonder what might have happened if he could have attended even one of the good public schools here in my native Pennsylvania such as East Penn, Parkland, or even a highly ranked suburban district like Radnor School District in Delaware County.

There are many fine public schools in this country, but the cost of living in these districts makes even considering moving to them out of reach for those in society who are most in need of education to break the cycle of dependence upon welfare and crime. We have Public Schools in Name Only. We really have defacto private schools.

More school choice is needed to help expand the opportunities for those who need it most. Tragically, this puts urban minorities at a distinct disadvantage.

Why then, does the first black President oppose increasing school choice to help end the cycle of dependence? Maybe it has something to do with Teacher's Union bosses being among the most frequent guests at the White House. The Unions do not want School Choice breaking their monopoly of control on the youth of America.

It's not just the Progressive Left that is impeding increased academic opportunities for urban minorities like Trayvon Martin. There are plenty of lily white wealthy suburbanites who want to keep "those people" out of their neighborhood and out of their schools at all costs.

It wasn't racism, guns, or even George Zimmerman that killed Trayvon Martin. It was a system that likes playing politics instead of pursuing solutions. Until we make good schools available to all Americans, teens like Trayvon will continue to be thrown into a life reminiscent of Hobbes' Leviathan: Nasty, brutish, and short.

Cross posted at WatchDogWire.

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