Morning in America

by

I’m typing this from Seat 6A on an American Airlines flight from RDU to MIA.

That’s me. I’m looking out at the sunrise over the North American continent.

It’s a new day in America, but this is no time for sentimentality and patriotism because the guy next to me just gave me a dirty look for opening the window shade to watch the sunrise.

That pretty much sums up the mood on the plane. It’s full of middle-aged businessmen. They prefer to read their WSJs in complete and utter darkness. Jerks.

As I normally do when I am bored on a flight, I watch airplane TV without the headphones. I like the challenge of reading lips. Seriously. Right now I’m watching an episode of something called School Pride. Without knowing anything about the show, I’m judging it.

Hard.

The best way to describe the show? It’s like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition meets some kind of weird, Republican agenda. The episode I’m watching takes place in a poor neighborhood in California. (Of course it does.) You have a bunch of kids in a failing school. It’s falling apart. There are TV crews and corporate sponsors who want to improve the school while asking the kids to do the work. They are moving desks and knocking down walls. Right. Child labor on top of attending a crappy school. Perfect.

So now we’re further into the show… and the classrooms are renovated and the library is made over by People Magazine. (I’m not kidding.) The science lab is refurbished my Microsoft. I think the football field is renovated by EA Sports but (reminder) I don’t have the audio and I might be wrong on that one.

Anyway, you get the idea of the show.

*

Okay now it’s almost over — and I’m sitting here offended. People Magazine invests in a reading room? The private sector commercially sponsors the renovation of a school in exchange for product placement on a reality TV show? As if any of this makes a real difference and prepares these kids for a future beyond their immediate reality.

And then, to add insult to injury, Arnold Schwarzenegger hops on stage and congratulates the children for having such a fresh & pretty new school. I think. I’m not exactly sure what he said, but if it’s not an apology for overseeing a school system that can’t afford to paint thel cafeteria, he should be ashamed of himself.

I know, I know. You want to tell me that any attention to a crumbling school system is good attention. Kids can’t learn when they are surrounding in decay. Fine — but I have no idea if test scores improved in this school, if the kids are fed healthy & nutritious meals, or if they feel safe in their classrooms and in their neighborhoods.

I just know that it takes more than a one-time investment from a reality TV production company to instill school pride. And it takes more than People Magazine to get these kids reading at an appropriate level so they can become thinkers, leaders, and engaged citizens in our country.

If this is how we instill school pride — by ignoring the fact that it is our personal responsibility to invest in these kids (and not the responsibility of corporate sponsors) — we are doomed.

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