Make no mistake; we are just as vulnerable to homegrown extremists who harbor anti-government sentiments. All of those threats, possible ugliness, and potential horror, get handled by these people in uniform.
I admit to being uncomfortable on crowded subways, and I was not as bothered about it before September 11. But when you visit other cities and see how little police presence they have at crowded hubs, you realize that these New York City uniform employees are worth every penny (even though they do not get paid much) we can muster and deserving of thanks.
I cannot say that I feel better when I am on a packed F train, but I would feel a lot worse without them. I have also taken to packing my gym bag with much cleaner clothing in the event that I am randomly selected.
NYC Language Education
Somewhere in between the fights over how fast people need to learn English in the United States is the question of when to start teaching foreign languages to American students.
In a discussion among academics in Washington, it occurred to me how slow we are to introduce languages to public school students. Many students begin learning a foreign language in junior high school, and then it gets followed up in high school. But how many students really learn these languages? They memorize enough to get by, and then it all falls away shortly afterward.
Next Monday, I will be at a seminar with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa on the issue of school reform. The question is, what are the appropriate subjects to start teaching at a very early age? For children who are in first, second and third grade, it would be better to start language education. Everyone agrees that the earlier you begin learning a language the better chance you have to remember it.
As someone who saw foreign languages as more of a novelty at one point, I would now argue that language education might even help students grasp concepts of math and music as well. Algebra is a type of language; it looks funny and is intimidating. Once you master a second language, however, sentences and symbols that look different are not such a big deal.
The smartest person in the race for the presidency in 2012 is former governor of Utah, Jon Huntsman. He may not win, but he is without question the leading intellect of both parties.
“I would negotiate better with the Chinese, and I can do it in Chinese,” he said in a recent debate.
How have all of these highly educated people in line for the Oval Office somehow avoided learning languages? Huntsman speaking Chinese fluently does not mean that China would all of a sudden raise the value of its dollar, which should have been done a decade ago. But there is a certain respect that a leader gets when he makes the effort to step away from his comfort zone.
Huntsman is right – as usual. He would negotiate better with the Chinese. Like it or not, our kids are going to be dealing with the Chinese, the Brazilians, and the Russians on all sorts of matters when they inherit our country.
We need to introduce languages to students much earlier. In a city where we complain about race issues and intolerance, this would also force students to concentrate on a culture and language outside their usual area of familiarity. Waiting until junior high school is way too late, and it makes it less possible to produce a bilingual student.
Not long ago, the Tassafaronga Village of Oakland, California, renovated 87 units of housing for what they call mixed-income (more likely low-income) residents.
What is interesting about this housing program is that the buildings were renovated as a green village, with solar power and recycled materials. Perhaps more importantly, however, is that these units are designed differently.
You know what public housing looks like. Public buildings are drab, often with a no frills appearance. These buildings in Oakland are not all the same size. Some are two stories, some are three stories. There are common areas that do not look like dens for drug dealers.
Why do we care about this? New York is constantly reinvesting in public housing, and how we approach architecture might make a difference in the value of buildings and in the attitudes of the residents.
Housing units in New York are usually in established buildings, unless they are deemed new construction. Schools, however, might pick up on new architectural styles all while making schools eco-friendly.
Let’s get creative. The mayor wants green buildings, and I think he should make creative architecture a part of that process. Students need to walk into a nice building every day – or they might not come back. Does this look like a drab public school?
The Day Before
I started my career in politics many years ago. I joined a political club, and soon found myself the treasurer (because no one else wanted to do it).
A man named Ken Gucker, a political conservative, who was too old to serve in Work War II, was in his 80s at the time that I knew him. He wanted to give me political books and artifacts, and I was happy to have them. He gave me a copy of the New York Times from the day after the moon landing.
Many years later, I was home from work on a rainy Monday. I read everything that I had in the house, and then came upon that issue of the Times. Every page, every advertisement, was dedicated to the moon landing. I remember sitting in the couch and thinking there would never be another day when the entire newspaper covered just one thing.
That was Monday, September 10, 2001.