In­com­ing for Ant­wan Wil­son

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - DEB­O­RAH SIM­MONS ● Deb­o­rah Sim­mons can be con­tacted at dsim­mons@wash­ing­ton­times.com.

The D.C. govern­ment is sched­uled to hold its an­nual gam­bling ven­ture on Satur­day, when par­ents will gather their hopes of get­ting their hands on thou­sands of jack­pot prizes — awards not of cash or gift cards, or even tarot cards or tea leaf read­ings.

The city’s top prizes merely of­fer a lot­tery slot for par­ents to pick their top three choices of pub­lic schools for their chil­dren to at­tend next year.

This, in a school district whose strong­est and most di­verse re­forms are in the char­ter school port­fo­lio; fur­ther re­form progress re­mains in the tarot cards.

Which is why Ant­wan Wil­son, nom­i­nated last month by Mayor Muriel Bowser to be the new pub­lic schools chan­cel­lor, needs a deck of tarot cards.

Be­fore he gets that read­ing, though, he should get his own look-see at what the sys­tem of­fers and what it does not of­fer at the D.C. Ar­mory event.

Dubbed “EdFest,” the city­wide ed­u­ca­tion fair will in­clude all man­ner of govern­ment agen­cies lined up to give away free stuff.

Health; parks and recre­ation; Metrorail, Metrobus and reg­u­lar school buses; and, of course, groups for spe­cial needs will be there.

Even at-risk youth al­ter­na­tives, in­ter­net ac­cess and a few nuts and bolts about free col­lege tu­ition pro­grams and pub­lic li­braries will be there as well.

Free­bies!

All well and good, con­sid­er­ing the District’s adult il­lit­er­acy rates range from an es­ti­mated 8 per­cent in Ward 3, which in­cludes Cleve­land Park and Chevy Chase, to an es­ti­mated 48 per­cent in Ward 8, poor­est of the eight po­lit­i­cal ju­ris­dic­tions.

Gen­er­ally speak­ing, as you know, adult func­tional il­lit­er­ates need not ap­ply for com­pet­i­tive jobs, even in this al­most-post Obama era.

So hold­ing par­ents’ hands, so to speak, has a role at EdFest and at sim­i­lar events.

Still, what’s most trou­ble­some is not the plethora of hand­outs be­ing of­fered at EdFest, but the fact that the flier tout­ing the event fails to men­tion any hand-ups.

In­deed, while Ana­cos­tia High School has a pub­lic safety academy, the flier does not cite that fact.

More­over, not only are ca­reers in pub­lic safety and fire­fight­ing agen­cies ex­cluded, but EdFest also ne­glects other for­ward-think­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties: mil­i­tary and de­fense, med­i­cal and health care, tech­nol­ogy and cre­ative arts, ho­tel and tourism, food and restau­rant — to name a few.

It seems the D.C. govern­ment is more in­ter­ested in try­ing to in­still de­pen­dency on govern­ment rather than help­ing stu­dents and their par­ents look to­ward a fu­ture that’s rooted in ask­ing the ques­tion, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Far too of­ten, it’s a ques­tion mid­dle school and high school par­ents, stu­dents and teach­ers wait un­til the last minute to even ask.

For sure, many par­ents — and teach­ers, for that mat­ter — read­ily see some­thing “bad” in a child and ship her off to “al­ter­na­tive” school­ing, but fail to rec­og­nize a dif­fer­ent and pro­duc­tive di­rec­tion in which the child may be headed.

It’s those in­stances in which the old say­ing, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach” some­times come to mind.

Mr. Wil­son saw first­hand how the D.C. school sys­tem op­er­ates, and he’s heard con­cerns from the pow­ers that be about what their ex­pec­ta­tions are. EdFest of­fers another telling pic­ture of the sys­tem and the bu­reau­cracy that pulls its string.

If Mr. Wil­son re­mains in town over this week­end, he should qui­etly ob­serve the in­ner work­ings of EdFest be­fore gam­bling on his ear­li­est moves.

Sure, tarot cards and tea leaf read­ings may help, but the cir­cus bark­ers at EdFest can be dis­tract­ing.

The 2016-17 school year for D.C. stu­dents and par­ents is, for all in­tents and pur­poses, al­ready writ­ten on stone tablets.

What the Wil­son school sys­tem will need to prove lies ahead.

Who and what Mr. Wil­son does not see and hear EdFest is pre­cisely what needs his full time and at­ten­tion.

Mr. Wil­son should re­mem­ber is that peo­ple (politi­cians, bu­reau­crats and pol­icy ad­vo­cates) ex­tremely de­pen­dent on giv­ing away free things and peo­ple lin­ing up to re­ceive free things rarely stray from rou­tine.

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