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Will Miami become headquarters for the illiterate?

Miami Times Editorial Department | 8/14/2013, 11:03 a.m.
South Florida is known for its idyllic weather, its bevy of beauties and its pristine beaches. But soon, if Miami-Dade ...

South Florida is known for its idyllic weather, its bevy of beauties and its pristine beaches. But soon, if Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s budget goes through without serious alterations, it may be best known for having the largest percentage of illiterate citizens in the country.

Of course we understand that there’s a gap in the budget that, by law, the Mayor must fill. And it goes without saying that in order to have public services, one must be prepared to pay the bill. Our concern, however, rests on how our sage leader is prioritizing what can remain and what must be cut. One thing that Blacks simply cannot afford is to have fewer opportunities for strengthening the academic skills of our children. Our schools already tend to have the lowest scores, the least amount of resources and the highest number of unseasoned teachers.

As for our principals, they tend to be treated like objects in a pinball machine — moved with rapid speed from one school to another, sometimes before the ink on the contract has had sufficient time to dry. Before they can change the climate for the better, they have moved on.

Today’s youth can maneuver their way with ease through the maze of social media. They can ‘tweet’ in an instant or drop a communique on Facebook without looking. But the phrases they use are a hodgepodge of street lingo, abbreviations and symbols. They are not utilizing standard English. That would be fine if corporate America and our colleges and universities would suddenly decide to do away with the requirement that employees or students, respectively, can show that they have mastered the English language — both in its oral and written form. But we don’t see that change of policy being made anytime soon.

Any teacher worth their mettle will tell you that in order to become a better writer one has to read and read often. If you want to become a better speaker, you must listen to those who can recite with perfect diction. How can our students hope to one day compete in the global market place if the best they can offer is a middle-school vocabulary and the writing prowess of a high school dropout?

We need our libraries more than ever before and we need folks in them that have a passion for service, instruction and recognize the power that one gains when they have mastered language.

That’s what those of us from the old school remember about our childhoods. Today’s children deserve nothing less.

But then, maybe we don’t care about literacy. Maybe we’re just trying to get them ready to become beach bums or inmates in the Florida prison industrial complex.