LA’s Public Education Leaders: Heads In the Clouds But No Feet On the Ground

ALPERN AT LARGE--If this topic weren't so frequently raised by community and educational leaders, it wouldn't be so boring (and yet so timely).  We hear about the Millennials being so poorly prepared for the real world, and so unable to be independent, but it could be easily stated that theirs is a generation that is just extending a trend that has been occurring for decades.

It's not hard to conclude that some of the greatest minds, and the greatest role models, exist in the world of teaching and education.  It's also not hard to conclude that some of the dumbest minds, and the worst role models, also exist in the world of teaching and education.

When parents and teachers confront and listen to each other (and, when the time is right, to the students as well), educational excellent climbs considerably.  

Without a doubt, there is a need more than ever to ALSO include employers and trade guilds.  Although fast food restaurants train their managers on how to employ and hire Millennials, the need for EVERYONE of ALL ages to "step up their game" is as critical as ever.

There are just too many zealots and agenda-driven "thought leaders" who don't add any positive features to the education and preparation of young minds for the real world.

However, there are enough liberal and conservative leaders who usually DO agree, and who DO need to be heard, on establishing the following courses that should be REQUIRED for high school (and/or college) graduation (and, by extension, the adults would likely also pay more attention to this example of "stepping up to the real world"):

1) American Civics and Critical Thinking--awareness of how their parents (liberal or conservative) are both a source of inspiration and over-indoctrination is a MUST for young adults to develop their OWN opinions.  This is true especially if these adults are to develop opinions different or independent from that of their teachers, as well.

2) Fiscal Literacy and The Power of Investing--any young person who does not truly know how to balance a checkbook or maintain a solid credit rating is in BIG trouble, particularly when so many credit cards/banks are all too happy to fiscally enslave naive young Americans as early as their teens. 

Furthermore, neither keyboarding nor cursive are elective skills needed for success.  They are vital.

3) Bicycle and Car Maintenance--Contrary to the meme that Millennials are eschewing car ownership, the purchase of private automobiles (and their use) is as high as ever.  Knowing how to use trains and buses is a MUST for youth (particularly in the urban setting), but the need for usership of cars and bicycles is also a MUST.

4) Basic Cooking, First Aid, and Clothing Maintenance--Teens and twentysomethings have been guilty of over-relying on their parents for decades, but the practice is almost at record levels.  The need for basic food preparation, cleaning skills, health/first aid knowledge and how to mend clothing is (as always) a metric for determining when children can become adults.

5) Focusing on All Careers and Paths to Higher Education--Some day, the educational leaders will stop talking about restoring vocational education, and actually do it.  Some day, the educational benefits of going to this "name college" versus a local community college will be revealed to be minimal, and the "cottage industry" of college tuition/bankruptcy/groupthink will be exposed.

And the respect afforded a plumber, electrician, or mechanic will be restored to be as essential as being a physician, lawyer, or accountant.

Until then, parents and students and community leaders will be doomed to discover, and rediscover, and re-rediscover, what we all should (and maybe do) already know:

Too many of us are indoctrinated, and not educated.  Too many of us are being taken for a financial or informational "ride" instead of being independent and able to think for ourselves.

And too many of us are willfully accepting enslavement to the agendas and/or financial goals of others, rather than FOCUSING on the agendas and/or financial goals that best serve the balanced needs of the self, the family, the community, and the nation.

(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud father and husband to two cherished children and a wonderful wife. He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He was co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chaired the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)