Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Baltimore City on HBO

HBO has a fascination with Baltimore City. And it's not the kind of fascination that I have for Sheryl Crow. It's more like the one some guys have with fat girls on mopeds.

Everyone knows about The Wire. It's the highly accurate portrayal of Baltimore City as a cesspool of crime, violence, and political corruption. And though not on HBO, there was the series in the 1990s called Homicide: Life On The Streets, which was about Baltimore City being portrayed as a cesspool of crime, violence, and political corruption. On Tuesday night, HBO ran a documentary called Hard Times at Frederick Douglass High - A No Child Left Behind Report Card. It focused on the fact the Baltimore City is a cesspool of crime, violence, and political corruption, well not so much political corruption, but I had to keep the analogy going.

So the premise of the documentary is that 2 producers spent a year at the prison, I mean Frederick Douglass High School and filmed what they saw. We've read much about this in the news. But to see it first hand was just amazing. Kids roaming the halls during class. Boys beating the shit out of girls. This one boy in his wife-beater t-shirt was giving full fist blows to a group of 5 girls. Meanwhile, every class room that they showed was a circus. Directionless wondering. Sleeping. Fighting. Shouting. Arguing. Oh, yeah, and now and then you hear the teacher begging for quiet so that he can talk.

The teacher rabidly defends the students as the overwhelming majority of them come from broken homes. Most are raised by their grandmothers. Many of their parents, friends, siblings, or cousins were shot and/or killed. Nearly all of their family members are strung out on crack or heroine (pronounced hair-on).

They show students casually strolling up to the late table at 8:30, 9am, 10am, 11am. This is insane! The principal is constantly asking the kids, "What time does school start? You need to be here when the bell rings." This falls on deaf ears. These kids aren't coming here to go to school. They're mostly coming here to hang out in the halls with their friends and get free meals that they probably wouldn't get at home.

They interview some of the parents. And of course it's not the worthless piece of shit parents' fault that their kids are worthless pieces of shit. Scene after scene shows a parent saying they don't know what to do. "My kid don't want to go no to school. What do I do?" Hello!!!! They blame the teachers. They blame the principal and the school administrators. They blame overcrowding (let me tell you - those empty classrooms were not overcrowded). They blame lack of money (Baltimore City receives more money per student than any district in the state).

As the show goes on, they pour statistics on us. The freshman class has about 500 students. The senior class has about 200 students. That's a 60% dropout rate between 9th and 12th grade. Yet Martin O'Malley screamed and jumped up and down telling voters that he solved the education problem in B-More City and that graduation rates had climbed to 70-some percent. Unfortunately, most of the voters didn't realize that he was full of shit.

Another statistic that screamed at you was that 1 (read one, uno, ein, a single person) passed the HSA math test in the previous year. Out of the entire school. One!!!

An extremely amusing scene was Back To School Night. Nearly 100 parents/ guardians/ grandparents showed up. Out of 1500 students. When my school had back to school night you couldn't find a place to park. Parents were lined up at the door of each class waiting to talk to the teacher. At FDHS, some teachers say they saw between 0 and 4 parents that night. Now who needs to be there? The suburban kids getting A's or the city kids who came to class 5 times in the first 2 months of the school year and haven't passed a single test?

So what do we take away from this documentary? It's tough to say. Yes, the schools are failing. And we know that it starts with a lack of parental involvement. If your parents aren't involved with your education, then you will suck as a member of society. But you can't legislate social responsibility. The government has tried, but like most things the government does, it fails miserably. There needs to be a dramatic cultural change in the people that live in the city. Education is seen as being 'too white'. Children are not going to respect their education until their parents respect their education. The 'gangsta' mentality is getting people nowhere fast. Locking everyone up in prison does little to help those getting locked up, though it does tend to lower crime in those areas. I feel sorry for people in this situation. But then again, I moved far from Baltimore City to get away from this.

I highly recommend that you watch this documentary. It should be on HBO again and I know it is on HBO-OnDemand.

1 comment:

Signtopia said...

It is sad..... It is tragic..... It is sickening........hmmmmm.....what would Sheila Dixon say about all of this?..........."We are moving forward!"

It's the end of the world!

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