Thursday, November 12, 2009

Gutter: One day is all it takes

Here I thought that serious, complicated issues took a considerable amount of time to address. Turns out you can get it done in one day.

From the Post-Gazette:

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Pittsburgh Schools Superintendent Mark Roosevelt this morning kicked off a summit on high school dropouts, one of more than 100 nationwide sponsored by the America's Promise Alliance, a nonprofit group affiliated with retired Gen. Colin Powell.

The daylong event at the Downtown YWCA is designed to bring city school and civic leaders together to develop a plan to address the city's 35 percent dropout rate. The plan will be finalized later in the day. (emphasis added)

"Okay guys, here's the plan. Let's sit down, have some coffee and bagels, shoot the breeze about how Panera's bagels are so much better than Bruegger's but they're also twice the size and, man, those calories go right to my hips and hey, has anybody been to that Dunkin' Donuts in Squirrel Hill yet? That is so good and oh-so-bad to have a D&D right up Forbes Avenue. Gonna have to do some extra running this year. Did you see that it's certified Kosher? How about that? Can I get a chocolate frosted Kosher donut hole?

"Anyway, let's talk about this drop-out thing. Man, it's bad, isn't it? Whoa, lunch time. Who's up for Sammy's? Love that corned beef. Is that Kosher?"

- Break for lunch -

"Oh man, I shouldn't have eaten that whole sandwich. I could take a nap right now. Anybody want to run out for some Five Hour Energy Drink. That would really hit the spot."

- Break for energy drink -

"Okay guys, it's about 3:30. What does everybody think about the drop-out situation?"

"It's bad."

"Good point by you. I like that. For our plan, let's make it resolution-style and start off with some whereas statements. Number one: Whereas the drop-out situation is bad."

"Nice. Good start."

"Oh oh oh, I know what number two should be: Education is good."

"Man we're cooking now."

"Okay, number three: hmmm, I'm not really sure what else to put for our whereas statements. Let's go with two."

"I know: young people are our most valuable resource."

"That is so money. I love that shit."

"Yeah, that's good, right? I saw it on a poster outside the YMCA."

"Nice. Now then, we've got three whereas statements. Let's hit the resolution and get the hell out of here. So, let it be resolved that the city of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Public School system focus renewed energy and resources on curbing this issue so that the young people of this city can have a brighter future ahead."

"Sweet. Think we should get into specifics about where the resources would come from or what exactly we plan to do to address the 35% dropout rate?"

"Are you kidding? It's quarter to five. We've been here since 9:30. I'd say this plan is finalized. Mad Mex anyone?"

End scene

Look. I'm all for addressing the drop-out rate. 35% is a ridiculously high - and embarrassing - number for the city school system. But a one-day summit? With a plan to be “finalized later in the day”?

Hey, let’s spend the next 45 minutes coming up with a plan to get out of Afghanistan. How about a two-hour sit-down to address the world’s AIDS problem? Got 15 minutes to shoot the breeze about swine flu?

Come on. What can realistically come out of this other than a photo op, a few handshakes with photogenically-disheveled drop-outs, and an empty “achievement” to brag about at a latter date? And this is happening all over the country as part of the America’s Promise Alliance, which is sponsoring “more than 100 nationwide” summits.

How about dedicating real resources to addressing the problem? A one-day summit is almost insulting to the breadth and seriousness of this problem.

Taking the drop-out problem seriously requires more than one day.