The Why’s Part II: Why Education? In Baltimore?

May 26, 2009

Here’s something you may find surprising: I have no experience teaching and spent a grand total of about 4 hours in Baltimore over 4 years ago. So why would I accept a placement with JVC teaching in Baltimore?

It all started last summer when a friend recommended that I watch HBO’s The Wire. It’s a fictional show about the Baltimore City, its people (cops, criminals, addicts, children, politicians, & everything in between), and its government systems.

Each season looked at a different aspect of the city. The first season focused on how the police department handled drug problems and interacted with drug dealers within the city. The second season focused on unions, the third on politics, the fourth on education, and the fifth on the press (public relations professionals reading this should take a look at season 5. It offers a very accurate portrayal of a news room). The show strived to show a realistic vision of an American city. All institutions depicted, from drug trafficking operations to City Hall, were dysfunctional in some way, causing the characters, no matter how noble, to adapt to their reality, continuing the cycle of dysfunction.

What really inspired me, however, was the fourth season on education. In my opinion, education is where the cycle of poverty manifests itself the most (Check out the circular imagery from the 1:16 mark in the season 4’s introduction). Middle school and high school may be the time when a child makes the most important decision of his or her life: stay in school or to start or continue down a path towards poverty or crime.

Each season ends with a musical montage of scenes showing where each character is headed in their life. Season 4’s montage ends with a long shot of a crossroads (5:30 mark), perhaps representing the crossroads that each child faced.

After watching The Wire, I felt that education would be the best place to volunteer. Here, I would be able to pass on what I’ve learned in my own education to those who may not otherwise receive that help. I know I can’t save the world, but maybe assisting some students with their class papers will add to the mission* of the school, help school be cool and, be a place where students not only learn about writing, but also about life.

*The school’s program caters to students in low and medium income families, who demonstrate academic potential and motivation, and are mature enough to be employable. Students pay part of their tuition by working five full days a month at area businesses.