President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at U.S. Bank Arena, Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at U.S. Bank Arena, Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) (John Minchillo/AP)

As a retired public school teacher who passionately tried my best to invest every precious moment of my 45-year career planting seeds of hope into the lives of my students, I have a simple response to President Donald Trump’s recent tweet describing Baltimore as a “disgusting rat- and rodent-infested mess…. so bad that no human would want to live there” (”Better to have a few rats than to be one," July 27). I implore him and all members of Congress to stop the verbal wars and political gridlock. What our country needs now are viable ideas and solutions anchored in the acronym of H.O.P.E — Healing Our Public Education!

As a veteran teacher, I instructed my students to critique their fellow classmates’ ideas and comments with respect, offering solutions as problems were encountered. Please, President Trump, stop tweeting negative words that supply no answers and start using your presidential power and authority to address the real problem facing all cities across America: educational disparity. Numerous studies have shown that academic achievement is linked directly to the educational, economic and environmental inequity and inequality of our students. By ignoring the individual qualities, strengths, and interests of our students, our American society continues to waste billions of taxpayer dollars each year on promoting a failed academic system that: educates our students (pre-K through high school) to simply pass meaningless standardized tests and encourages our high school graduates to pursue generic college degrees that are not career-focused and bury them under mountains of debt.

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Here is a real way out of this dilemma, backed by data, for closing both the achievement and income gap in students enrolled in our public schools throughout America, especially among students of color and those living in poverty. Starting with inner city Baltimore schools, President Trump can bring an end to “the disgusting rat- and rodent-infested disparity” found in all of our nation’s cities by simply funding and implementing this skills-based approach to our public educational system that supplies every student seated in classrooms across America with “Mirrors of H.O.P.E.” Beginning as early as middle school, a Mirrors of H.O.P.E’s skills-based approach requires that every student enrolled in our public schools (special-need students included) be given the best, most accurate aptitude test designed specifically to: identify a student’s unique personality, natural talents and strengths AND assist the student and parent(s) to target a career path that aligns with the student’s interests and abilities and opens up possibilities that were never even on the radar prior to identifying individual strengths.

Based on their aptitude scores, plus the support AND advice from their school counselors and parents, Mirrors of H.O.P.E. would enhance student participation in developing personalized and targeted career goals by allowing all 8th graders to choose 9th and 10th grade electives that match their interests and lines up with gaining additional knowledge to enhance their marketable skill set. Further, it allows all 10th grade students to refine their course selection for 11th and 12th grade electives that matches their career interests and all 12th graders to participate in a mentorship program or an employer–sponsored apprenticeship that exposes them to the actual “workday realities” of their chosen career.

Every individual has unique gifts and abilities. The mission of Mirrors of H.O.P.E. is to work on a viable solution to the educational inequity and inequality that currently exists throughout America. This will require close collaboration among government, school districts, post-secondary institutions and local employers. Together these stakeholders must decide what students need to learn in the classroom before they enter the workplace.

President Trump must stop the negative tweets and give all Baltimore’s students hope so that some won’t choose dope and a life of violent crime. Invest in Mirrors of H.O.P.E. and Baltimore’s students will become productive citizens and Baltimore and our country will be a better place. In a nutshell, my wife’s short rap says it best: “Don’t scream restitution. Work on a viable solution. Promote self inspection. Give time for reflection. Help them choose a direction. They will strive for perfection!”

Neill G Russell, Queenstown

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