Former Lincolnite Austin Bower was featured on the front page of the Lincoln Journal Star (LJS) Sunday, 8/16/15. Bower, a 2009 Lincoln Southeast High School graduate, didn’t know where his future was headed, got involved with a bad crowd, engaged in criminal activity and went to prison for four years. Descriptions of the physical, mental and sexual abuse he experienced, as well as segregation, at the Lincoln Correctional Center (LCC) would be a blockbuster horror movie.
Letters Bower wrote home to his Mom give clues as to why this high school graduate felt lost about his future. “…I am so scared I can barlie write….I come to seggergation for protection…smelt like suage like s—from a tolit.”
Austin Bower was not taught to read, write or spell in school.
He is described as having disabilities diagnosed over 20 years by a series of doctors and psychologists. The diagnosis include: autism, Tourette syndrome, obsessive compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, oppositional defiant disorder and borderline personality disorder.(JoAnne Young, LJS 8/16/15)
Those diagnosed behaviors coupled with his Mom’s description of Austin’s extreme sensitivity to noise, suggests Austin Bower may be profoundly gifted intellectually. In previous columns we examined how a child, with an IQ over 140 (genius level), was sentenced to the Kearney Youth Correctional Facility each year during the three years pre-sentence IQ testing was administered in Lincoln County Nebraska.
Profoundly gifted are as different from average as profoundly mentally deficient. What matters most is how differences are addressed. Are assessments and interventions initiated which exacerbate or alleviate problems? This will be a key question as Lincoln Public Schools and the United States Department of Education expand behavior assessments in the classroom. Innate ability must be nurtured with appropriate and effective curriculum and instruction to be brought to fruition. Think of Mozart absent music.
To education consumers (students/parents), career-readiness means the student is prepared to enter the work force. At a minimum, preparation for work and life includes the ability to read, write, spell and do math proficiently. That solid foundation enables the individual to achieve higher level training in a variety of fields, or continue on with education. However, for decades, Nebraska and the nation have failed to teach the majority of children basic skills well: reading, math.
Societal and economic impacts of that failure escalate each year. In our growing economy, with a low rate of unemployment, the Lincoln Food Bank distributed over 8 million pounds of food last year, almost four times the amount handed out ten years ago. “We’re trying like crazy to keep up,” stated Scott Young, executive director of the Lincoln Food Bank. (Scott Mc Fetridge Associated Press/Nicholas Bergin LJS 8/15/15)
The percentage of poor Lincoln residents has increased 58% in ten years. Under federal poverty guidelines, 44% of students in Lincoln Public Schools qualify for free and reduced lunch. A growing army of lower-skilled workers limited to jobs in the services sector, keep wages low. The economy for low-income people has not improved. Employers lament job openings go vacant for lack of qualified workers. To combat a shortage of drivers, Senator Fischer introduced legislation to permit 18 year-olds to drive large semi trucks across the nation. Cashiers that age are not allowed to check out beer at the grocery store.
Developments at Lincoln Public Schools (LPS) define priorities:
- Pinnacle Bank Arena welcome back for staff
- LPS Citizens Academy-Monthly classes which introduce citizens as to how education works in the community
- All LPS sixth-graders will get Chromebooks to use with the new Common Core-aligned Reading Wonders and Go Math digital curriculum
- Opening of the $22.7 million Career Academy which will offer 350 students “…a chance to focus on 12 unique career paths…help students find their way.” (Chris Dunker, LJS 8/11/15)
LPS Superintendent Steve Joel, in a LJS column published 8/11/15 shared his views about education:
- Wondered about the poor and disenfranchised
- Has aspirations to raise the graduation rate to 90% by 2019
- Precious learning days
- Embracing all kids: rich or poor
- However gender expressed
- Wherever they sleep
Why does Joel single out certain demographics or intensely personal attributes of children in place of a focus on mastered learning? Why have schools dropped their primary responsibility to teach ALL children reading, writing and math? Joel urged citizens to contact LPS for accurate information about schools, budget and students. Instead, citizens should contact LPS for specific information regarding student learning and achievement or proven effectiveness of recent Common Core-aligned curriculum adoptions.
Austin Bower’s capacity to think and act on his own was crippled by miseducation. The long list of deficiencies attributed to Bower effectively blamed him for his learning failure. Nebraska ranks seventh in the top ten states for heaviest property tax load. Your property tax dollars would have been better spent teaching Austin Bowers to read, spell and write well rather than torturing him at LCC.
“You can’t turn men into slaves unless you break their spirit. …teach them to take orders…teach them to conform..” Ayn Rand Has the purpose of public school shifted?