I am writing today to announce the closure of the New Mexico Independent. After three and a half years of operation in New Mexico, the board of the American Independent News Network, has decided to shift publication of its news…
‘Trickle down’ approach won’t work for South Valley’s public schools
Part of the mystery for newcomers is its unique history, a history that is still not complete, but which is uniquely American. One of the oldest sections of the metro area is the South Valley, an area that was settled before many eastern cities were even conceived. Despite this rich history the community has had to grapple with many hardships over the years, including the seemingly ever present injustice of children left poorly prepared for a world that increasingly demands high levels of education.
A recent part of the South Valley’s history occurred ten years ago when a “riot” and walkout on Rio Grande High School’s campus caused the Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) to push the panic button on the cluster.
I graduated from Rio Grande High School that year, and now, ten years later it appears the cluster is once again reverting to a failed hierarchical “trickle down” approach.
This philosophy and administrative shakeup is not only antiquated, but ignores the lessons and calls from President Obama’s declared “new era of responsibility.” The APS superintendent’s proposal falls short because it fails to give the community ownership or input in the cluster’s successes and failures.
Poor academic preparation in the South Valley is unfortunately indicative of the academic burden the nation as a whole is facing. Just a few weeks ago, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Hugh Shelton and former Secretary of the Navy John Dalton warned the country about the crisis of a citizenry ill prepared to succeed in the armed forces because of poor academic preparation.
As a former naval officer, I can attest to the importance of a strong academic background in today’s highly technical military. Technical and professional skills are nurtured in the schools and at home. When the schools fail our national security is harmed. Our military ranks are weakened not only by the lack of skilled warriors, but in the case of failed schools with many minorities, a shortage of diverse warriors.
The same applies to technology and business. Even if a green revolution occurs, its rewards could skip an entire generation of young men and women if they enter the workforce without the proper skills.
General Shelton and Secretary Dalton are advocating a ground up approach, with a focus on students at early levels, which unlike the APS plan, attacks the root problems of academic failure. The APS plan can be likened to applying a band-aid on a gaping wound of poor academic performance, opened during or before the elementary level. The wound of academic failure begins small but grows and becomes infected because it is not truly addressed until the high school level. Once recognized at the high school level, treatment becomes an incredible challenge, as the wound’s infection spreads to the essence of the student.
The failure on the part of the school system seems to be an insurmountable dilemma and a constant burden on the community. But I remind those who doubt the South Valley’s ability to succeed and face down adversity to look to those from the past who survived droughts and poor harvests, participated in nearly every American war including the Civil War, marched in the Philippines to the sound of Japanese drummers and the butts of their rifles, or came to the area as laborers and found success as new Americans.
Their fortitude is deeply American, and exemplary of New Mexico’s contributions to our nation.
Perhaps the APS superintendent should seek to understand the community he is working for, and advocate a ground up approach that reflects the strong academic culture that is often ignored but present in the cluster. Rio Grande’s graduates include many doctors, farmers, fire fighters, nurses and EMT’s, members of the armed forces, lawyers, electricians and plumbers, teachers, business members, and a multitude of other professions. All of these Ravens are exemplary of what is right in the valley.
We owe our success to our families, our teachers and coaches, priests and pastors, and many other members of the community who helped us along the way. These community members instilled a culture of continual education and service, and a culture that should be passed to each successive generation, regardless of where they live.
As Rio’s 50th anniversary approaches, a simple message from another former Navy sailor and great American leader, Cesar Chaves, comes to mind. Cesar Chavez believed that “The end of all education should surely be service.”
Chavez believed in the power of education and showed great courage throughout his life fighting for the rights of the underprivileged. As President Obama stated in his inaugural speech on Jan. 20, courage can be found at every level and position, from a firefighter storming “a stairway filled with smoke” to a “parent’s willingness to nurture a child” and ultimately “decides our fate.”
Succeeding in school takes courage, and each New Mexico citizen should seek to serve courageously by improving our educational system.
Matthew Padilla, a New Mexico native, is a law student at American University Washington College of Law and an editor of the school’s “Sustainable Development Law and Policy Brief.”