Thursday, February 22, 2007

After the Election - Leadership Strategies

Chicago will elect a new Mayor next week. It probably will be the same Mayor we've had for a long time. In 2008 the country will elect a new President. We know this won't be the same person. It could be a woman, or an African-American or a Mormon.

Elections come and go. Millions of dollars get spent. Does it make a difference?

The graphic on this page is one I've been trying to get public and private sector leaders to look at for many years. It shows that the school day has three time frames when volunteers can help kids connect with a variety of learning opportunities and experiences. The graphic also shows the timeline every child goes through from birth to a career.

James Heckman of the University of Chicago published a paper in 2006 that illustrated the economic good sense of providing age appropriate cognitive and non-cognitive supports to kids from preschool to careers. We spend billions on prisons, according to another study, yet how much do we spend in the non-school hours and on learning supports hat help kids come to school prepared to learn, or leave school prepared for jobs and careers, not jail or welfare?

I don't think it really matters who we elect as leaders until we all are spending more time learning what the problems are in our education and youth development systems, and where public and private sector leaders, volunteers and donors can converge as partners in helping schools be more effective in their mission.

I've pointed to uses of maps to show where poverty is the prime factor in poorly performing schools and under prepared kids. In the T/MC library I have a section with No Child Left Behind articles. I encourage groups of people to read these and reflect on them, the same way that groups of people read and reflect on scripture each week.

What can our elected leaders do? Be the catalyst that points people to this information. Use the volunteer and donate buttons on your web site to point to community organizations where funds are desperately needed to connect kids with volunteers and learning opportunities. Set up a map of your community outside of your office door. Ask everyone who comes in looking for a favor to put a pin on the map showing where they are doing something to help kids in your community connect with volunteers and structured learning and enrichment opportunities. As the pins on this map show investments in every poverty neighborhood, and every time frame, we'll begin to have the type of support system in every poverty neighborhood that is taken for granted in every other neighborhood.

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