East St. Louis teachers strike blocking escape hatch for students

ESL Teachers Strike

At the time of this post, the East St. Louis (Ill.) teachers strike is into its 13th day with no end in sight. Teachers strikes normally don’t last this long. Concerns about lost instructional time and kids’ overall well-being usually make adults focus and settle their differences.

Not this time. The adults have dug in with both heels and the escape hatch for many kids is closing. Sports provide a way out of poverty, crime, gangs and a lot of other undesirable activities for many kids across the country.

While most will not be Division I or professional athletes, even a junior college invite puts many kids, particularly in East St. Louis, ahead of their peers. There just isn’t much opportunity in the town of 27,000 whose economic base revolves around gambling, nightclubs and other forms of adult entertainment.

Sports propelled Jackie Joyner-Kersee into iconic status. She is the standard for women’s athletics the world over. Joyner-Kersee is an East St. Louis native. Kellen Winslow is a Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end and Mizzou All-American. He’s also from East St. Louis.

I sympathize with the teachers. The job is tough, the pay is relatively low, and people seem to always want you to sacrifice for their kids while no one appears to be thinking about yours. However, kids need to be in school. This is what you signed up for. You have your college degrees. The kids don’t.

The following excerpt from Monday’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch keeps replaying in my head: “Most of the 6,000 students in this troubled school system have either stayed home, gone to relatives’ homes or community centers or wandered the streets since the strike began.”

Kids are wandering the streets. They’re either doing nothing or close to it. All of the adults involved should be ashamed of themselves. Our future is out wandering the streets. And with every day of lost instruction or game forfeiture, you potentially send another aimless wanderer out into the world.

A common refrain among my colleagues is that adults are ruining youth sports. In the case of East St. Louis, the adults are ruining everything.

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