Monday, April 07, 2008

Poverty and the new administration--a challenge

Last week, just before the 40th anniversary of the death of his father, Martin Luther King, III published an op-ed piece in the Atlanta Journal Constitution (April 3, 2008).

Recalling the work and wisdom of his father, the younger King issued an interesting challenge to the Presidential candidates: during the first 100 days of the new administration, the new President should appoint a cabinet level "poverty czar" who would lead and orchestrate a new effort to reduce poverty in the United States.

Worth reading at:

http://www.ajc.com/
search/content/opinion/stories/2008/04/03/mlked0403.html
.

What do you think?


.

17 comments:

Charles said...

I think your link no longer works - the story's too old for free access now.

My concerns about the poverty czar are that it would resemble the "War On Drugs". Addressing poverty will require leadership that can coordinate other departments in the effort - HUD, Interior, Treasury, and others. I don't know if there's a position that can do that short of President, but possibly the right personal leadership could. At the risk of bringing back the "two-for-one" organization, both Bill Clinton and Michelle Obama have experience here and might be able to make a post like this work. Or, of course, Larry James.

Anonymous said...

Larry Wishard said,
Larry,
Your approach is to roll up your sleeves and get down and dirty in the battle to help people. That is the only way. All three major candidates are multimillionaires helping the poor by appointing someone to a $200,000/ poverty cabinets post. No.
Lwishard@msn.com

Larry James said...

Charles and Larry, thanks for the input. I think I have seen the value of a highly placed leader who "gets it." So, I find myself encouraged by the idea of a cabinet level person who could rally the forces of the U. S. to attack the problem and impact the real outcomes. It would need to be a "street fighter" type who understands the reality of which you speak, Larry. But the scale of the problem makes the government's involvement crucial. That is one thing I am certain of thanks to my experience here since 1994.

Chris said...

Larry, how many poor people do you know who have stayed in school, not been involved in the criminal justice system and not had babies before marriage? I'll bet it's fairly low.

How about a not raise taxes czar?

I doubt the Clintons have done much as individuals to help the poor. Their charitable contributions probably went to their own trust. A little like Al Gore buying carbon credits from himself. (Hillary proposed the "poverty czar" a few days ago)

Larry James said...

Chris, you date yourself, but that is ok. You just don't understand what is going on today in the urban centers of America. We can wish it different, and some of what your suggest is in line with exactly what we work toward and counsel. But your lack of understanding about what is missing, especially for poor youth, is classic and very sad. You may have accomplished all that you advise 50 or 60 years ago. But, be honest. What sort of support and encouragement did you have? And what special advantage did you have, even if poor, simply because you were born white?

Be real. Open you eyes to what our children face here in East and South Dallas and in the 9th Ward of our city, or the city nearest your suburb. You don't give enough credit to how you were set up at the net in the good old USA.

Larry James said...

Chris, ooops--I meant "9th ward of your city" not "our city."

Anonymous said...

Larry Wishard said,
Would any street fighter leave the fight to be a cabinet worker. If so, maybe yes. I would recommend someone like yourself. Still, the key is that the person's character and body of work is consistent with what we are trying to get done. Wisdom is proven by actions. To often from both parties there is lip service on the one hand and more ignoring of the problems on the other. Larry James I hope you can over look my cynicism. Jesus feed them and trained them if they were willing. Some He fed were not willing to make change, but He still had compassion. He hurt with them and helped them.
Larry Wishard

Chris said...

I think the biggest advantage I had
growing up in Arkansas was that my dad was a republican in a sea of corrupt democrat county politics.

Government doesn't do many things well, schools are one example, and you want it in charge of poverty? The best thing government can do is get out of the way.

Charles said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charles said...

I'm really sick of the railings against public education. Yes schools could be run better - I've never seen a company that didn't have similarly deep flaws. I'd bet 90% of the people who read and comment on this site and the Internet at large learned to read and write in a public school. Teachers are working harder for less pay than any other profession I can think of. Don't let a few bad apples spoil their whole reputation - I don't know a teacher who works less than 50 hours a week, and that's for teaching classes without writing a new curriculum. Our biggest problems in education (not that there's a simple solution, but the 2 fundamentals that would help start addressing things) are: 1) Money is needed because teachers are not earning professional salaries, so all of the most skilled people I know take a job where they can afford to raise a family. 2) Unlike other countries we believe everyone can and should have a diploma - no one is shunted off (officially) to non-academic apprenticeships. This isn't a problem - it's one of our strengths - but comparisons with other systems need to take this into account so we can determine where we're actually falling behind.

Anonymous said...

Charles:

"Unlike other countries we believe everyone can and should have a diploma - no one is shunted off (officially) to non-academic apprenticeships. This isn't a problem - it's one of our strengths."

I'm not so sure. Germany, among others, appears to be pretty good about selecting students based on merit to go on to higher education and "shunting" some students toward less academic pursuits. Isn't a successful non-academic outcome better than our current system of large numbers of self-selected drop outs?

Charles said...

Depends on your purpose. If it's a purely economic game, that would better allocate resources and ensure skilled worker bees. If it's about the people, then that would be like a church determining who's capable of understanding or following Christ and encouraging the rest to not worry about the Truth. We need to reduce the number of dropouts, but not in a way that limits their possibilities - that will destroy us economically, politically, and spiritually.

I'd be interested in seeing numbers on how Germany's system is working out for the people in all groups both while they're in school and afterwards. Please post links to any information.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about stats, but here's a basic description from Wikipedia. Sounds pretty reasonable if implemented well.

"Primary education usually lasts for four years (6 in Berlin) and public schools are not stratified at this stage.[1] In contrast, secondary education includes four types of schools based on a pupil's ability as determined by teacher recommendations: the Gymnasium includes the most gifted children and prepares students for university studies; the Realschule has a broader range of emphasis for intermediary students; the Hauptschule prepares pupils for vocational education, and the Gesamtschule or comprehensive school combines the three approaches."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_in_Germany

Seems to me to beat dropout rates of up to 50%.

Charles said...

The only information I could find on Germany's dropout rate indicates it's higher than the US. Apparently being less-challenged doesn't improve the finish rate.

http://www.ccl-cca.ca/NR/rdonlyres/F8B5BD3A-EDF1-432F-8376-FE083AF31575/0/HighSchoolDropoutRateEN.pdf

Chris said...

Charles:

Today I heard a public school in Arizona was giving "goody bags" to the kids going to the prom. One of the things inside was a condom. In the same program, a teacher was beatem up by a student because she was told to sit down. The other students laughed and egged her on. The administration said it was the teachers fault.

Believe me, if I had a child in public school, the first thing I would do is take him out.

These incidents are not that unusual.The schools need to regain control.

Charles said...

Chris,

1) Can you find any evidence that these things happen rarely? Or were they newsworthy and reported because they don't normally happen?
2) Have you ever known a person who refuses to have sex only because they don't want to pay for a condom? Or someone today who isn't aware that contraceptives exist? If that program can prevent even one pregnancy or STD, it's improved at least one life, and I'd need to know how it damages one.

I'm definitely open to evidence (not isolated anecdotes) on either of these points. Actually I'll even take anecdotes on the second one.

Charles said...

Also I looked up the story of the beaten-up teacher. By "program" I thought you meant the same school but I'm guessing now you mean the same television program, which makes me even more skeptical that these are normal incidents as opposed to cherry-pick to instill more fear.

I haven't found anywhere that the district or administration blamed the teacher or held her responsible. They told her there are better ways to deal with situations. If someone's mugged in a dark alley, don't you tell them to avoid dark alleys and try to help them change their behavior to avoid future problems? That's not saying it's their fault, that's training.

My whole family's teachers, so trust me that I'm not against teachers' safety. That school has high-level problems that need to be addressed as an entire community, which will only become harder as more residents of the community pull their kids out and leave the rest to stew.

How does that reflect Jesus' mission? You want to pull your kid out for short-term safety while you dive in to help the whole community of the school, that I can see, but otherwise you're crossing to the other side of the road because caring is just too hard.