What I imagine.

– The problem of crushing poverty is extremely complicated, and addressing one or two facets of it doesn’t seem to help. Throwing money at it without addressing the root cause of it appears to make it worse, in fact (note, I am not a public policy major, I’m speaking from uneducated observation and reading a couple of books!)

– Giving food, water, and clothing to the poor is a good thing. In fact, Jesus specifically endorsed it (Matt 25:34-45). I am hugely in favor of feeding programs and donating. However (sez the woman who never thought seriously on this matter until about 2 years ago) it is not a long term solution. If you give a man a fish, etc etc.

– The facet of thriving (vice surviving) that I understand is education. I don’t have any clue about sustainable agriculture, microfinance, community organization, job creation, infrastructure support, or appropriate ways of addressing corruption. Not a thing. But I am reasonably confident that all of those things, plus the dozen-odd that I am totally forgetting, are most effectively done by an educated population.

– The most effective secondary school model that I am familiar with is the one used by the West Florida High School of Advanced Technology, among others. Fundamentally –

  • up through ninth grade, students follow a fundamentally standard curriculum similar to what is probably already common at existing schools. However, their elective time includes options to explore various career fields and vocational tracks.
  • after ninth grade, students study in tracks. The core subjects of math, science, literacy, and social awareness are still taught, but they are targeted. To wit:
    • The medical track, for students who want to pursue careers as radiographers, lab techs, physician’s assistants, doctors, nurses, et. al. emphasizes math as it pertains to calculating medication dosages, determining caloric needs of a kwashi sufferer, deciding on safe radiation levels in diagnostic equipment. Science leans towards biology and anatomy. Literacy includes reading and writing assignments selected with a bias towards medical histories, journal articles, understanding research and statistics, etc.
    • The agricultural track writes its math curriculum using examples from things like calculating water usage per acre, estimating crop yields – science leans towards botany and ecology – social sciences include extra material on the law of supply and demand and marketing.
    • The mechanical track teaches math from the viewpoint of calculating compression, finding amperages; science offerings include physics, hydraulics, and electronics…

I could go on about this model forever, because I’m a huge fan, but I’m actually getting sleepy finally. Plus I don’t want to bore you, there are dozens of potential tracks and options to create core curricula around them in ways that are not narrowly focused and still include broad learning outcomes, but make the core subjects relevant to at least a potential productive future.

What are Chan’s favorite words? “What if?” And these kinds of schools are right at the top of my all time favorite “what if” list. I can help design these kinds of curricula, devlop these kinds of faculty, administer this kind of education. I don’t know if this is exactly what God is calling me to do in Haiti, but from a limited human point of view right now it seems that way to me.

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