by Hilderbrand Pelzer III
New Mexico State Rep. David Chavez wants to send kids on jail field trips. What? He introduced a bill Tuesday that would require public middle school students to visit jail and juvenile detention facilities, reports KOAT. What? Chavez believes the reality check would keep kids in school and out of trouble. What?
Has the middle school experience come down to this? Are you kidding me? Schools are taking field trips to jails and correctional facilities in order to keep middle school students in school and out of trouble. Whatever happened to focusing on teaching and learning in the classrooms and making certain that children are exposed to learning opportunities that inspire them and bring about experiences that will propel them toward a successful future. For instance, why not take a field trip to major universities to experience higher education? Why not take a field trip to the state capitol to experience the legislative process (and maybe even eyeball the state legislators foolish enough to vote yes)? Why not take a field trip to NASA to experience science and research? Why not take a field trip to the White House to meet and chat with the President of the United States? Why not take a field trip to the United Nations to learn about world affairs? Why not take a field trip to the headquarters of Google or Facebook or Apple or Microsoft, to learn first-hand the impact of technology innovations on the 21st Century? Why not take a field trip to the local school board meeting to ask the idle-sitting school board members, why they are allowing State Rep. Chavez to "require" them to visit jail and juvenile detention facilities?
In a speech to the National Association of Counties, Eric Holder, U.S. Attorney General, said, "Put simply, it’s time to broaden our approach to juvenile justice – and to ensure that sound research and respected analysis are a part of our decision-making process." Is the Chavez legislation what Holder meant? I hope not.
The best way to prevent young people from engaging in activities that could lead to jail or prison is to keep them engaged in school. Schools must just do school! Expand the instructional core. Scale up teaching and learning practices in the classrooms. Graduate students with a quality education. And, most importantly, take field trips that will broaden the minds and spirits of young people, and provide them with experiences that consider their aspirations and great potential.
With New Mexico having the second lowest graduation rate in the country, according to Education Week's 2010 report, I am sure, if they try hard enough, the state legislators can do better than plan field trips to jail and juvenile detention facilities for students.
Are jail field trips an approach you think could work? Please comment.
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