(ran LA edition of LT)
A recent editorial in the St. Petersburg Times suggests that problems in our schools are really a reflection of the problems in our society. It further suggests that we must look to ourselves, rather than blaming administrators or teachers, for the answers _ that these difficulties are the result of a faulty culture and a value system gone awry.
In this same issue, the front page greets us with the news that the Tampa-St. Petersburg area ranks surprisingly low (223rd of the 239 areas ranked) as a desirable place to raise children. A media campaign recently launched by a Tampa agency brings to our attention the violence, the neglect and the pathos that are endemic to the lives of many of our children. We are shocked. We disbelieve. The unpleasant truth is never easy to confront.
The obvious question is, what can we do about it? To lament a changing value system and the disintegration of family and traditional institutions that have served us well for generations is of no use. Hand wringing and soul searching have no place here. It is too late for this. With the nation's highest school dropout rate and the third highest juvenile arrest rate for violent crimes, Floridians must act. And we must do so now.
As always, the best solution lies with prevention. The only way to stem the downward spiral of conditions that make Florida a less desirable place to live is to recognize that our future lies with our children _ and that it is in the schools that we can make a difference.
Giving an hour or two a week to a local school by tutoring a child or simply being a friend to a student can make the critical difference between a youngster finding his niche or falling through the cracks.
Year-round adult education for those who need remedial help with basic skills or who have not completed high school is an even more critical area. Funded at only two-thirds of what children's education is, this system is a lifeline for many in our community.
The decision to return to school is never an easy one. These students have tasted the failure of life with an inadequate education. It is a courageous thing to try to correct this.
Because the learning is structured to be completed on an individual basis, these students benefit greatly from having a tutor. Also, students whose native language is not English need tutors to help them master our language.
As in any teaching situation, the roles of teacher and pupil may become interchangeable at times. Often the students will share knowledge that is outside the realm of experience of the tutor. And the giver becomes the recipient of a broader vision than he had before.
You can join us and be a part of this effort. You can make a difference. Call the Department of Community Involvement at 588-6405 to find out how you can help.
Arlene Kline recruits volunteer tutors for adult education for the Pinellas County school district's Department of Community Involvement.