Two major headlines as of the writing of this article include the school shooting in Broward County, Florida and the ongoing crisis of opioid addiction and treatment. Everyone from news pundits to politicians is scrambling to offer answers, but few can agree on the source of the problem, much less a viable solution. Is it a gun control issue or a mental health issue? Do we clamp down on security in the school system or do we infringe on people’s personal freedom and begin screening everyone for mental health issues? The Orwellian implications conjured up by this discussion are many and few of us desire to travel down this rabbit hole.
What baffles many in the debate is that these problems have been going on for years and yet no solution appears to be in sight. Pointing to the ills of society, such as moral decay, increased violence in the media and advanced technology, yields few results since these trains have already left the building and change on this level requires decades if not more. Solutions will have to come from adaptation and thinking outside of the pre-Alexa box.
Recently, I read an article in the Charleston Gazette about a local foster care agency starting a college specifically for kids growing up in foster care. It was one of those “aha” moments when the “light bulb” comes on and you ask yourself; “why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?” Yes, there are target-specific Charter Schools which provide educational alternatives; however, they often have a negative reputation, largely because they competed for government funding with the public schools. Even though these schools are publicly funded, they do not come under the regulations of the local school board, and are seen as competition. However, this mindset could easily be challenged by the need for greater security and quality education for specific student populations.
Not only would smaller schools be easier to manage, especially when it comes to security, but they would also have the capability to be more student focused and target specific, such as in the case of foster care students or students with addiction related issues. In cases where students suffered from specific mental health disorders, they could attend a school that catered to that population but would offer quality education and alternative teaching methods, rather than the current “alternative” schools, which are often substitutes for behavioral problems, mental health issues and dumping grounds for failing students. Even the larger “magnet” schools, which due to their size actually invite greater risk, could be broken up into sections and offer separate, secured education for different groups of students. These students could have lunch and activities separately from other students in order to minimize the risk of mass danger.
Another alternative is to spread out the educational process rather than have all learning take place under one roof. For example, Biology and Science could be taught by the local 4-H chapter at their location, Mathematics by another group as well as Computer Science, so on and so forth. This approach would require more thought and creativity but it is currently being done by homeschoolers across the nation.
When it comes to the Opioid crisis, recovering addicts are much in need of education in order to replenish lost social, academic and vocational skills. An academy which caters specifically to the addicted population would serve a great purpose and fulfill a much needed void. In fact, most treatment centers are inadequate to provide the necessary re-building skills to help someone in recovery go from the pit of addiction’s devastation to success and fulfillment. Recovering addicts need Hope and Positivity and even after coming out of treatment, most face a long, uphill battle of debt, loss and a depletion of social and vocational skills. Many recovering addicts are from multi-generational drug use and trafficking, and are in desperate need of education and exposure to healthy lifestyles and relationships.
When it comes to this two headed monster of drugs and violence, solutions are available. However, it will require some 21st Century thinking and some will have to be willing to surrender their former lifestyle and comforts in order to make the switch. Otherwise, the alternative solution will be for the government to force control and regulation which will undoubtedly invite more of the same results as in previous years.