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Denied Oppurtunties. Unanswered Questions: The Mess that is New York City Graduates

Congratulations New York City!!

To steal a phrase, the most controversial city is once again on top of the mountain. Did it break tourist records? Did it finally get more money for homeland security? American Idol is over, and well, the Yankees and Mets haven't won anything yet, so what's the deal?

Congratulations New York City, you have been rated as having one of the lowest graduation rate in all of the nation!! What have they won you ask? Well, New York City has earned themselves a future supply of criticism, unproductivity, and useless minds!

Seriously, this is one of the saddest things that has been reported about the greatest city in the world. The fact that a story such as this is located somewhere in the mid-section of the paper, where stories such as Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's baby make the cover of numerous papers. There is something wrong with that.

According to the article written by Erin Einhorn, a Daily News staff writier, fewer than four out of every ten kids earn a high school diploma. The article goes on to state:

The Education Week study, which placed the city graduation rate at 38.9%, used a complicated formula. In part, it compared the average number of kids in each high school grade with the average number of kids in the following grade.

"We need to do a better job so more of our students leave high school with a diploma," researcher Lori Mei stated. "We expect to see improvement going forward."

Nationwide, the study found an average graduation rate of about 70% - with much lower rates, about 50%, among minorities. Girls also are more likely to graduate than boys.

There is a problem with this. A big problem.

Despite it's nonchalant location in the paper, New Yorkers were not fooled and are alarmed about the study. As an on-looker on the crowded, yet, highly aware subway system, New Yorkers voiced their opinion in what was a rather interesting discussion on a Wednesday night during the season of high school graduation.

Gathered were a few on this train ride discussing the same exact issue. The crowd, on their way home from a rare New York Liberty win at the Garden was made up of many different people of differnt ages.

Ding. Ding. Ding. We had ourselves a thirteen person debate on a #3 train.

The talk consisted of many bashing today's generation on how they aren't aware of the oppurtunities given to them. This is where much of the participants who are immigrants began comparing their homelands to the good ole USA. Many felt that kids are somewhat spoiled and are not aware of what is before them. To quote a very vocal and knowledgable woman that claimed to be a former New York City Public School teacher, "Kids are given a free education. They are then given free books. If that's not enough, are you hungry? They feed the kids. And finally, just so you don't have to walk, they give you a free metrocard to go and come home from school. With all of those luxuries given to you, how can you not graduate? Where is the problem? Kid's in other countries wish they had half of what is available to kids here. So people need to stop blaming the school system."

Her words so simple, yet so powerful.

The talk shifted from a debate for solutions, into a discussion on today's generation. "Our kids are just spolied", the same wise lady blurted out. This seemed to be the theme of the debate now turned discussion. "Today's culture teaches these kids wrong things. We exploit problems from the inner city on talk shows to devalue our image, our pride, ourselves. We see no problem in using vulgar language, using the "N" word as a terms of endearment and placing high regards on material things as a way of social rank. It's that damn hip-hop music. Our kids worship people like Jay-Z? What happened to us?" At this point she became very vocal in her beliefs and thoughts on the issues. Her mentioning of hip-hop then split the crowd turning the discussion into a debate once again parting the older vs. the younger.

The debate then lead into a college student busting out the newspaper and refering to the section of the article claiming half of minorities across America graduate from college. This once again altered everything in a new discussion. "Hip-hop isn't only listened to by minorities. I major in music, and I for one know that over 30% of 'White-Americans' listen to rap", the young man passionately made his claim. With a quick response, an English blue collar businessman responded promptly, "Hip-hop can't be the problem now can it? If all kids are listening, and some are graduating and some are not, then there has to be another reason". His calm, professional demeanor captured the audience as they analyzed the situation that he presented.

"Well for one, minority children do not create atmosphere of success for themselves. How many kids do you see around here walking around with their pants hanging off their behinds, clothes big enough for a family and use language on the train that is not apprporiate. Don't tell me times have changed, because there is still a level of excellence you must carry yourself with", the wise teacher blurted through the open air of silent analyzing. Her comment sparked a few responses.

"Minorities are to blame", claimed a darker-skinned, middle-aged security worker. " As a black man, I can admit it. It's not a racist thing, But it's the truth. We cry so much for being oppressed and about racism and things of that matter. Instead of going to school and rising above that and making something ourselves, we waste oppurtunities like a free education. I have to be honest, and this is in no way a racist comment, but one of the most satisfying sights to me is to see a young man like this"

He pointed to young dark-skinned man in a suit with a briefcase and asked, "How old are you?" The young man responded, "Twenty-three, sir. "

"Hear that? Twenty-three, sir!" I love that. A young man that is a minority that is succesful, respectful and going places. That's what it's all about", the security worker loudly preached.

A elderly lady, who announced her middle-eastern heritage followed on the security officer's statement, "Oh boy, it's way beyond minorities." The stunned security officer stared at her now in interest. "This city is made up of so many people. It's not a black thing, a spanish thing or like me, a pakistanian thing. They are white kids in this city that dress like that, talk like that and are doing the same thing that people see as being 'black'. My boys dress like that. I do agree with you, it's the will. Some reason, our kids in this city do not have it"

After that statement, I unfortunately had to get off of this train ride of knowledge. However, it did leave one to ponder...why aren't our kids graduating high school?

It is quite the complex situation. The apparent cause of this growing issue is obviously invisible to the individuals that live it everyday. We see the many issues that surround it, yet, a solution nor the direct problem remains a mystery. Many issues were indeed brought up, and maybe, just maybe one of them is linked to the 38.9% figure that we as New Yorkers are completely embarrassed about.

First and foremost, the differences of genertations claim that was made early in the conversation is a popular notion for the problem. Although it may seem credible that kids today aren't aware of their oppurtunities, using it as a reason for New York City's poor graduation rate is not a viable claim. In fact, kids from all areas of life, urban, rural and suburban recieve these oppurtunities. Each have their problems and all deal with high school drop outs and students that fail to graduate. Nonethelss, that former New York City teacher was correct. Kids in this country recieve many luxuries and oppurtunities throughout their grade schooling that they are not aware of. There should be no excuse for low graduation rates.

Secondly, the scapegoat (and I use that word strongly) of hip-hop was used. Hip-hop consistently remains a target by those that just do not understand the concept. Although, I do agree, some forms of hip-hop has gotten out control, with vulgarity and expletive language, mainly in the rap genre, rap like other forms and styles of music has it's good and bad. Hip-Hop is looked at as a problem and is often seen as being very negative. However, never are the positive songs ever mentioned or touched on as being inspirational to the youth of America. Yet, when there are rock n' roll songs or dare I say, country songs, which are racy or push the envelope on the same cultural morals we use as laws for hip-hop, it recieves the mere pass on judgement.

However, blame must go for where it is deserved. Hip-hop has become almost unbearable from the founders of its cultural movement. It is filled with smut. Huge smut. Rappers and hip-hop artist are no longer roll models for their talents and success, but larger than life figures for their ability to defy authority. Jay-Z is not "worshipped" because of his videos or because he's a "cool rapper". Jay-Z is admired by so many inner city kids because he was once where they were at. He struggled, he walked the same streets. And at the sametime, unlike many popular and succesful celebrities, he has not forgotten where he has come from. Sean Carter's life is a mere example to a kid growing up anywhere in the inner city, that one day they too can make it big.

Nonethless, it is not hip-hop's fault. Like everything else, there is a choice. To listen and not to listen. Hip-Hop will not be understood by the elders of today's generation. Much like when they grew up, they too had music that was considered "theirs", making it distinguishable to their lifetime. How many people during the 70's with anti-war messages have gone on to become succesful people?

The blame on Hip-Hop is a scapegoat.

Finally, the isue of race and ethnicity playing a factor in this search for a solution maybe an overthought. There is no secret that New York City is highly diverse. However, in a nation where only about fifty-percent of minorities graduate from high school, many believe there is a direct correlation with the students of New York City. The security guard from the conversation claimed that minorities are to blame. A highly critical and controversial thing to state. I somewhat agree with him.

Yes, as a minority it should almost mean more to succeed. As history would prove with many fighting and dying for the oppurtunies that one can enjoy, succeeding almost seems mandatory. The fact that so many minorities are wasting away their lives through drugs and gangs is almost heartbreaking and a killjoy to the victory for civil rights.

However, the blame on minorities isn't entirely true.

There are lighter-skinned people in this city. Yes, that is correct. Whites as well do indeed drop out of high-school and fail to graduate. The mere ability to fall into the stereotypes and myths that only minorities live in the inner city is quite novice. To find the solution of this problem, the thought process and comprehension must be unbiased and just.

Despite his verbal remarks, the security guard's inital thoughts were definately on to an answer that sometimes seems too simple of a solution for this mighty complex problem.

What about other potential causes? The school system you say? No, not even close. Unlike popular opinion, the New York City school system is just fine.

So what is it?

It can't be the generation.

It can't be today's roll models.

It can't be today's lifestyle.

It can't be the school sytem. God, can it just be the ambition of these children?

The drive to do well. The ability to succeed where there talent lies. The motivation to want better.

Can it be that?

The morals to make money legally. The chance to move on to something bigger. The need to improve one's mindset.

Can it be that?

I believe it can. And I believe it is.

However, the thoughts of racism, generation gaps and stereotype mindtraps cloud our minds as problems within themselves, that they carry over to a problem such as high school graduates. There are issues that we have not solved as a culture, so we attach them to other problems.

For every child that failed to pass NYC high school requirments, there is another that sailed through high school and into college, and is ultimately on the road to success.

It's what lies within. Can you make the most of those oppurtunities?

Afterall, beyond all the questions and the fingerpointing, it does come down to that one thing - oppurtunities.

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