My friend Ken doubts we can do it - he isn't very positive about Laptop South Florida, Waveplace, or OLPC.
He has a good point. Ken argues that dedicated parents produce children who do well in school and in life, and that bad parents don't: those kids are screwed, and no laptop computer or creative, challenging courseware is going to change that.
I've heard this before, and it's true - to an extent. Studies show again and again the strong correlation between parental influence and the success or failure of a child. If we want the kids to make something of their lives, we have to change the parents. Period. Until we do that, we're wasting our time and resources.
I refuse to buckle in to this line of reasoning. If the odds are drastically stacked against many poor children because their parents each work three jobs and have ten kids, or because one is gone and the other is a crack-whore, or because they simply do not value education and have subterranean expectations for their progeny... so what? Are we going to just throw these young lives away?
Perhaps we should incarcerate them all now, before they turn ten. Think of all the crimes we'd prevent.
As a moral society, and as moral individuals, we cannot give up on these children. Not even the most hopeless among them.
My near-obsession is to help the worst of the worst-off children, the ones with the crappiest parents and worst prognoses, to make it anyway. I want to make sure that they get the education they deserve, are inculcated with the values they need to prosper educationally, economically, and morally.
I take Ken's pronouncement as a challenge. So I bet him $1 that he's wrong.* We each gave a third pal, Andy, our dollar. When these fourth-graders graduate from high school Andy will award that $2 to one of us. If our 42 kids in the pilots this summer graduate at 50% or worse, as is now the case in Immokalee, Ken is up two bucks. If we beat that by at least 10%, I win.
I will win this bet.
Here's why: because it isn't up to just me. We have a terrific core of believers assembled. All sorts of talented people are lining up to help us with this project. And the kids themselves are going to run with it, too. This is far bigger than any one of us.
*I always wager $1, never more. If you've seen the movie Trading Places, you'll know what inspires this.