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EDUCATION IS A PRIORITY ONLY IN THE ABSTRACT

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So the Source:
Please allow me to respond to Ms. Donellie's letter "Who Gets What Jobs and Who Doesn't and Why." I often read Op-ed and Open Forum commentaries in the Source. Rarely do I feel the urge to respond. This time was different. All it took was one sentence: "The children are our future." Those words that once conjured up hope now make me cringe. This seemingly beloved and overused cliché is the catalyst for this letter.
The Virgin Islands has a dual educational attitude (this term was coined by sociologist Roslyn Mickelson of the University of North Carolina – Charlotte). And nothing demonstrates this double-mindedness better than "The children are our future." Mickelson would call it an abstract attitude, an ideological belief that opportunity through education exists for all children.
The same "future of the Virgin Islands" experience a different reality, though. They soon realize that education is currency the Virgin Islands seldom honors. Welcome to the world of concrete attitudes, children. Concrete attitudes are perceptions of the potential return on education from the opportunity structure. (In the Virgin Islands, we might call this opportunity structure "the government.") For all the lip-service given it, education does not lead to upward mobility for many Virgin Islanders. The government of the Virgin Islands seldom rewards it.
Let's face it — the children of the Virgin Islands are not treated like the future; they are treated like guinea pigs. Our public schools give them the scraps our money can buy. And by the time our students don that high school cap and gown, they are left holding the bag while "the children are the future" droppings are being fed to their younger relatives.
Despite this lack of support, articulate, professional and educated Virgin Islanders do exist. Some live in the Virgin Islands; many more can be found elsewhere under the American flag. Yet, we must acknowledge that quality public education is lacking in the territory. It's time to make education a high priority, sooner rather than later. Some of us are starting to spell Las Islas Virgenes L-a-s V-e-g-a-s.
Gaynel N. Harris, M.Ed.
Cincinnati, Ohio

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