As parents of two teens, we are keenly interested in schooling and the future of the current teen population. Mostly in Costa Rica and the U.S., but around the world, as well. These teens will be our leaders, shaping our world’s future, good or bad. In charge of our golden years. Scary…

Our experience of the school system in Costa Rica, as in the states, is dismal. I would no more leave the teaching of life lessons to the school system here than I would in the U.S. Mo’s ipod was stolen at St. Cecelia and the administration shook their heads and offered "what can we do about it?" At the very least I expected an attitude of "stealing is wrong", but we didn’t get that. People on the Costa Rica Living board told me "Stealing is a way of life, get used to it." Not even a "Isn’t it a shame?"

While most Costa Ricans can read and write, their level of scholarship is low. The level in the U.S. is dropping down to match. And an overwhelming majority of the kids here drop out somewhere around age 12. This is the inevitable result of a government-run school system. Costa Rica has a better chance of correcting this problem than the U.S. simply because it is a much more family oriented society. But corruption is a problem in both places. If the money is not going to teachers and infrastructure, nothing will change. I don’t have much hope for either bureaucracy making significant change in my lifetime.

Fortunately, in Key West, we had HS2 (High School 2), a small parent
organized and run home school high school. We loved it there! HS2 was
affordable, small, good kids and had Tom Murtha, our friend for many
years and a man so passionate about math, t’would make your head spin.
Hal and I think about starting a small private school here. But we
wonder how interested we will be in that after our boys graduate.
Besides, without Tom it would hardly be any fun!!!

We have always been home-schoolers for obvious reasons. We tried private schools in Costa Rica and have gone back to home-school. Wanting the boys to have a social life, we are considering yet another private school for next February. Public school in Costa Rica for our teens is OUT.

Gangs of teens hang out around our little barrio. It is disconcerting. They don’t look dangerous, we don’t have a crime problem where we live or vandalism. But these kids look bored. If they are still in school, they are obviously not involved in sports and don’t have homework… they clearly haven’t been challenged hard enough that day to be sleepy! And they are hanging around awfully late in the night on school nights. Where are their parents? I imagine the same place U.S. parents are: intimidated and too self-centered to move beyond their own problems to listen to their kids. In the U.S. we also have computers and TV to keep us away from our children and their problems.

Lest I give the impression that this is worse here than there, last Halloween in Key West, I called the police on a gang of kids walking down our street with big sticks in their hands. Several of the kids were 8 and 9 years old. When the policeman came, he spoke to me about the vandalism problems with kid gangs. Not even teens yet!!! He was a conch, born and raised in Key West right around the corner from me and he was very upset by the magnitude of the problem. Not surprisingly, later that night, our house was egged.

Pardon me while I utter the obvious: teenage years are The Tipping Point. Education is critical. Involvement in family and community is critical. Skills are essential. The return of trade schools to the U.S. system would be a boon. Trade schools here would be a huge gift. Not every kid is destined (or even wants) to be a CEO, a doctor or a lawyer.

Sandford told me years ago that I can’t fix the world. That my job is to raise my kids the best I can, to make sure they are well-educated, thinking, loving, compassionate, responsible human beings. Tall order. She said that my way of making the world a better place is to do the things I CAN do the best I can do them. This is a simple instruction, I can understand this. I can even do this. I learned years ago when Sandford says "Jump!", I ask "How high?" So I’m following orders, doing my part, still wishing I could do more, looking for an opening. Got any ideas?

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