Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Mega Project

I live in an odd neighborhood.  It's full of some super rich people, a large group of lawyers, doctors and architects in the middle, and maybe 60% of it is immigrants from all over the world where there are troubles, lately the Middle East and Africa.   I think 25% of the neighborhood is from Mexico and South America, but especially Mexico.  I am about 1 mile from a street called Devon, which is the center of Indian immigration to the Midwest and has great restaurants and Sari shops.  On top of this, actors and musicians live here because there are cheap places to live and the neighborhood is safe.  We used to have lots of carpenters, but most of them moved.

My son's GAT program, which is 4 miles away, looks like my neighborhood.   Everyone is succeeding except for 2 groups:  Mexicans and African Americans that are native to Chicago.  There are plenty of super bright 2nd generation Mexicans in the GAT program, but two of the neighborhood schools are full of children from these 2 groups that don't spend much time reading.

By the time either of my children graduate from college, they will have read 5,840 more hours, watched 23,360 less hours of television (I didn't make that up), and been exposed to about 18,716,800 more big words in conversation (not made up either).   Certain groups, especially political groups representing African Americans, will complain that "the system" is not fair, but they will never be able to compete with 5,840 hours of reading by age 18, not to mention the 2,250 extra hours of really challenging math which I forgot to mention.  And there's more.

I'm convinced that any child can be and should be in a GAT program, but the parent has to want this, be highly motivated to do the work, and know how to do it.  It starts at about age 3, which is about 3 years too late, but highly doable in a Catch Up mode.

I'm trying to think about an unlikely series of events that would put me into a little shop with my name on it where charge $100 an hour for academic coaching half the time, and the other half of the time work on the Mega Project.   I can't see this happening, since college is too expensive and this endeavor would be too risky.   So I'm just going to forge ahead with the Mega Project anyway.

The first step is to find those people who are in the high risk groups mentioned above.  Maybe single mothers who didn't finish high school or immigrants that barely speak English and don't value or know anything about education.  The primary challenge is to figure out how to reach the parents, work through their gaps and issues.  The child part is much easier.  I don't know any of these people, but I know a school that is full of these people, and I think I'm going to approach the principal for help in identifying and signing up parents.

It will probably take me about 3 years of pilots to determine what works, what doesn't, and why.  Then I can apply for a grant from the Melinda and William Gates foundation.  Books are going to be expensive outside of reading curriculum, which is free at the library.

My primary motivation for all of this is the letters I receive each week from parents telling me your stories and asking questions.   When I put out Test Prep Math Level 3, I decided that most parents would think the material is nuts, and offered to help any parents with their questions.  Many have taken me up on this offer.  You people can thank yourselves when this endeavor succeeds, or blame yourselves if it fails.  Of course, if I do manage to track down that little girl and help her parents steer her academic career in the right direction, I won't fail. 

I did exactly this about 20 years ago when I was first married and waiting for children (which took 9 unexpectedly long years).   This grandmother stopped by my apartment and asked for money so she could buy dinner for her granddaughter.   I was baffled, so I followed her back to her apartment to assessed her and the situation for two hours.  It was a pretty bad situation, but common in Chicago. I don't know what became of the little girl after she moved away, but she moved away with the computer and a stack of books I gave her, and a really good idea of what college is and why it's so important.


  1. I wish I had emojis to react with. Best wishes and gratitude for sharing : good education is achievable for all, only if every child could have one dedicated adult in their life!

  2. This is amazing! Best wishes in this endeavor and for your willingness for knowledge sharing!