What often goes unwritten is that today’s police are also weighed down with different challenges than those which Serpico and his contemporaries had to contend. Chasing a guy for a stolen wallet or following a drug dealer is dangerous, but protecting a subway system for what has the potential to be a catastrophic world event, is different.
Nothing excuses an abuse of power, but today’s police are given the impossible task of protecting nine million people from potential terrorist attacks, and they still have to chase people for the stolen wallets and find drug dealers.
This is not to suggest that in a police force north of 30,000 men and women that there is not room to make changes, but if we are going to stay with Serpico’s notion that there is still corruption that needs attention, we should also not leave out that the many police do the impossible for this city.
Daily commuters try not to think of what could happen at any given time because the world climate is so unpredictable. What stands between everyday life and the chaos of terrorism are the NYPD and uniformed services.
Baseball & the Skills Gap
The last thing New York fans want to read about is baseball right now, but there is an interesting analogy that may be useful in crafting education policy.
When the Oakland Athletics realized they did not have enough money to compete with the big market teams like the Yankees, Dodgers and Red Sox, they started to look at statistics differently. This was the beginning of the Sabermetrics movement.
Oakland wanted players with high on-base percentages instead of home runs. This helped the organization build a competitive team in an alternative way. Can we start to develop an educational agenda in our troubled schools in a similar fashion by looking at alternatives?
With this year’s election season came talk about a “skills gap” in certain states and cities. The state of Colorado, for example, is considering ways to incorporate practical skills into its agenda.
It may be time to have employers in New York City weigh in on what they want from future employees when we craft our curriculum. We can dedicate half of a school year to statistics and another half to learning Excel. We can merge public speaking with PowerPoint.
There is no reason not to give our high school students exactly what they need, as well as the traditional coursework.
So much of success involves the small things, like presentation skills and relationship building. School is the only place to teach these small yet important skills that will ultimately lead to success.
When Sidney Poitier took out a head of lettuce in a rowdy classroom in the 1967 film “To Sir, With Love,” he was taking an alternative route in education. He wanted to show them that they needed to learn something real, as well as the normal intellectual heavy-lifting.
How hard is it to find a plumber or someone to lay tile if you do not know someone who already does it for a living? We’ve lost something in the white-collaring of the economy.
The carpenters’ union has a school for apprentices, as do other trades. Why not merge that into our school system and have students ready in case college is not in their future?
If we do not modernize education, we are going to lose a generation of students who already think the whole world exists on their phones. As someone who has taught liberal arts, there is nothing more important than the traditional palette of history, English literature, and science.
Second to that, however, is a good skills set that promotes self-worth and makes people functional in society.