Thursday, January 22, 2009

Obama & Tutor/ Mentor Programs Share Vision For Economic Stimulus

President Barack Obama has wasted little time this week, putting his stamp on the government, issuing a slew of executive orders, and previewing many of the new directions his administration will take, many completely altering the courses the previous administration took in terms of everything really... from foreign policy, to government accountability... and of course our embattled economy.

The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good. (President Barack Obama 1/20/2009)

Clearly his strategic vision is very much in line with that of the tutoring and mentoring community. I’m no economist, but common sense might suggest that, if more people had better access to the marketplace’s goods and services, and more people were making and spending money into the marketplace, this broader exchange of income might invigorate the economy as a whole. Isn’t this what those stimulus checks were all about a few years back? Maybe by giving people the tools and skills to put money in their pockets on their own, stimulus wouldn’t have to wait for a check.

And remember – this won’t be a mission “out of charity”– we can offer more opportunity to willing citizens… providing access to skills that will allow more people to help themselves! The "teach a man to fish" philosophy.

Obama continues:

The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth … We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders … we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. All this we will do.
A novel idea… supporting science and institutions of higher learning… I can't help but wonder if an emphasis on new technologies could possibly lead to another "tech boom" and its associated jobs... sort of like the one we saw in the 90s. Helping minds grow, and providing access to higher education is a fundamental purpose of tutoring and mentoring programs... places where students can discover and hone the skills needed to prepare for higher education and compete in the job market. Students at programs like Cabrini Connections and lost in “failing schools" throughout the country represent untapped sources of creativity and innovation. The next Bill Gates might be mired at one of the schools that appear in red on this map (click on it to see an expanded version):

This map shows 2008 "failing school" data, collected from the Illinois Interactive Report Card. Schools in gray and red on this map are on the 2008 state/federal “watch” and “warning” lists… these schools are under the gun to reform their curriculum and show immediate improvement on their test scores. Failure to do so may lead to sanctions, penalties, restructuring, closure. These are the “failing schools” we hear about in the media all the time.

The map shows a comparison of the data collected for this past year... compared to data from 2007. The comparison helps us see which schools are new to the list (red), verus those that remain on the list (gray), and those which were on the list but worked hard and got away (green).

I zoomed in on the Chicago area, and if you count the number of schools that escaped the list (green), versus the number of schools that have been added this year (red), you will see that more schools have been added to the list than removed. A bad trend.

What does this mean? Students across the area (not just Chicago, mind you) need additional help. Schools do what they can but their resources are often taxed. Classrooms are crowded, teachers are overworked, and negative peer pressure interferes with student decision making.

There is relief for the students, the schools, and ultimately our economy. Students can find one on one help for their homework… one on one mentoring to help forge a personalized college/career plan… all with the support of positive role models and like-minded peers at a tutor/mentor program like Cabrini Connections.

And there are hundreds of other existing programs like Cabrini Connections. Search the online Program Locator to find one near you.

I'll point out that, a common misconception - possibly due to what we assume based on negative news stories - is that this is a City of Chicago problem. As the map above shows, there are “failing schools” in the wealthier suburbs too. Tutor/Mentor Connection founder Dan Bassill is currently working to get a South Suburban group started that takes ownership in getting programs going in that region. Please contact him if you are interested in this project.

Obama reminds us that:

We honor [our soldiers] not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment — a moment that will define a generation — it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers … a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Please remember, as you become consumed with this spirit of service, that you can volunteer to work with students at tutor/mentor program locations.

You can also help find donors and money needed to keep these programs operating

Through tutoring and mentoring you can help your community, your economy, your country.


Anonymous said...

As a British mother of 3 sons who are at present in the US education system, there are many insidious factors that contribute to the dire failure of the education system, for many. Some of the people reading this list of comments might be interested in a unique education reform book that a colleague and I have compiled - Education:The Emperor's New Clothes, by Carlson & Felix, 2008. This book does not pander to political correctness or jargon, and is an easy read with many original cartoons and famous quotes. It is a verbal documentary from teachers, parents and concerned individuals world-wide. Here is the publisher’s link, for more information -

For a YouTube clip go to:

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