There is a post office in my hometown that has always been a squatting place for the homeless, begging for change from passersby. The homeless faces rotate, changing throughout the years, but there never fails to be one there.
I went there today. And once again, there was a homeless person there, asking for change. He was barely audible, his speak was slightly slurred. He leaned towards the people walking in and out of the post office, to get closer, attempting to be heard. Most people passed him by. A couple dropped some coins into his hand. I watched through the glass doors in the post office as I repacked the box I was sending.
The man looked like he was in his 40s or 50s, perhaps younger. Homelessness can age a person. It is highly lightly that he would have gone through some sort of public education at some point in his life. Elementary, middle, high school.
Did the schools fail him at some point? I’m pretty sure no one would blame this homeless man’s previous schools for his current predicament.
Did the schools do their best to prevent his current predicament? I don’t know. It would depend on the school, I suppose.
I grew up with a religious background that told me to love as God loves. To love even the homeless man sitting in front of the post office. I need to admit, I did not love the homeless man. I didn’t give him the cash I knew I had in my wallet. To be honest, I don’t think that giving cash to people is necessarily a way to show them love, or mercy. Just like I don’t think that giving my students a passing score is a way to help them learn. Give a man a fish, or teach a man to fish – that sort of deal.
Do our students come out of mandatory schooling knowing how to fish? Do they even have the motivation to fish? Or the awareness that fishing is a life-long process?
When I was paying for my package, another postal worker came up and told his colleagues that he took care of the homeless person outside the building because he was bothering people. I walked out and the homeless person was no longer there. I wonder where he went? To the back of the building? To another store front that might be more profitable for him?
Where do all the students who go through public education go? Some go to college. Some go to trade school and community college. Some go to work. Some go to the army. And some go to the place of this homeless person.
Educators really do their best, and then send their charges out into the world, hoping for the best. The best doesn’t always happen though. All we can do is hope.