Incoming for Antwan Wilson
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.
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.