I hardly, if ever, get news of any real definitive hope concerning The Public School System of these United States- despite the fact that each and every day some incredibly dedicated professionals throughout the land (particularly those in any inner city environment you choose) are giving their all, despite all odds. Every working day, they struggle against ridiculous test criteria that belittle them as professionals, and drastically shortchange the actual education of their students. And that's just the backdrop for the host of individual challenges each and every student presents- many with problems that academic programs of any kind were never meant to address, let alone solve.
Having dealt with these problems first hand for seventeen years in New York and California with a student population officially classified as "Severely Emotionally Disturbed," there wasn't a day that I didn't realize that all I was doing was applying a band aid to a mortal gaping wound- a wound that had a much greater chance of festering and spreading deeper and further, than of ever receiving the desperate and immediate long term, intensive care it so desperately needed. It was triage on the best of days.
So when I hear about a Restorative Justice Program that directly addresses the core social, emotional and disciplinary needs of those children who so obviously need it most, particularly in a city as troubled as Oakland, I am left a bit dumbfounded- relieved by the very existence and long overdue application of such a proven and effective program, and frustrated that more aren't employed everywhere they're so desperately needed. Usually those needs, even the most rudimentary and academic, are overlooked or under served- or worse yet, engaged with absolute subterfuge, as in the case of the much touted, and profoundly meaningless and pernicious No Child Left Behind.
It is also important to note that innovative programs (unlike the latter) actually save money. Not only do they prove effective in turning young lives around, so that they can be made ready to become educated and productive citizens- they are also infinitely more cost effective than any adult corrective institution ever devised by man. Unfortunately, many Tea Partying politicians would rather be seen cutting public education funding these days (as they send their kids elsewhere), so that they can in turn look tough on crime when they vote for more money to create private prisons for the criminals they directly help create- and therefore boost one of the very few growth industries left in this country...