Oklahoma City, this state and this nation are in a crisis. Most of us know it but don't understand the magnitude of the problem.
Prisons are full of people who grew up without adult supervision or an education. And it's accelerating every year. We keep ignoring the increasingly depressing statistics. Law enforcement, the courts and educators are fully aware of and overwhelmed by the trend.
We are faced with a significant and increasing number of people who have no work ethic and no education. They are unemployable. The problem is not only single-parent families. In the majority of two-parent families, both parents work and the children don't get the supervision or education they need. Nearly all children today have too much idle time. As my grandmother would say, “Idle hands work for the devil.” This trend will destroy our culture, our heritage and ultimately our nation. The crisis is worse than the threat we faced in the Great Depression or Cold War.
The cure will take a heroic effort. The longer we wait, the more expensive, invasive and painful it will be.
David Levin and Michael Feinberg, winners of the Brock International Prize in Education (www.brockinternationalprize.com), have shown us the way. They've created a groundbreaking organization that I believe is a harbinger of things to come in education. Their KIPP schools solve the problem of educating inner-city children and latch-key children, and the problem of the absence of parents during the work day. They've taken their KIPP system into the inner cities where the existing education system has failed and proved that those students can do just as well as students in the successful schools.
No magic or mystery is involved. They get a commitment from the students and their parents. They promise that “knowledge is power” and will be rewarded. They use proven teaching techniques. They've extended the school day to 5 p.m., the school week to noon on Saturdays and the school year by having programs in the summer. The extension not only gives more time to learn but takes the children off the street while the parents are working. They make going to school a fun and fulfilling experience.
Let's call on the governor and Legislature for leadership in solving this crisis. We should extend the school day to 5 p.m. and the school year. We will have to pay our teachers more and hire more of them, but it will be cheaper than hiring prison guards later. Many jobs in Oklahoma can't be filled because there are no qualified applicants. If we want to improve the economy, let's stop trying to bribe companies to come to Oklahoma where they can't find qualified employees and spend the money to provide a KIPP education to qualify our citizens.
Brock, of Tulsa, is a retired oil and gas operator and a member of the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.