What really killed Trayvon: failing public schools

When President Obama proclaimed, “You know, if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon,” he unnecessarily politicized a tragic event. He also completely missed the point.

Growing up, Barack Obama benefited from several advantages that many African-American children will never know. He attended the prestigious Punahou Academy prep school in Hawaii, where he was one of only three black students. Obama then—according to the official narrative—went on to attend Occidental College and Columbia University.

President Obama’s children attend the very exclusive Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C. Despite this school’s Quaker roots, it employs no fewer than 11 security guards, not including US Secret Service agents, who provide extra protection specifically for the President’s daughters. Hardly a run-of-the-mill inner-city education.

Yes, if Trayvon Martin had instead been named Trayvon Obama, he might have looked the same, but he surely would have led a very different life.

Instead of experiencing elite schools like the ones the President enjoyed and his children now enjoy, Martin was suspended from Dr. Michael M. Krop High School in Florida’s urban Miami-Dade School District. In 2011, his Junior year of High School, it was discovered that he was committing burglary. Martin could have been charged as a juvenile for this, but instead—because of a policy seemingly designed to make it seem as though the crime rate in the school district had gone down—he was suspended, compelling his family to relocate to another district. This relocation would transport Martin 200 miles away, to Sanford, Florida,  where his unfortunate collision with George Zimmerman took place.

Now, I am not naïve enough to believe that entering the juvenile criminal justice system would have saved Martin. Likely, it would have led to a lifetime of trouble with law breaking at best, or, in a worst case scenario, to a similar encounter in which his life would have ended in violence. We have a “justice system” that focuses too heavily on punishment and not enough on rehabilitation. Why? Because it makes for better politics . . . but that is a topic for another day.

One cannot help but wonder what might have happened to Martin had he been given an opportunity to study at one of the same top-notch schools that Obama or his children have taken advantage of. I wonder what might have happened if he had been admitted to one of the lauded public schools here in my native Pennsylvania, such as East Penn or Parkland, or if his family could have moved to a highly-ranked suburban district like the Radnor Township School District in Delaware County.

There are many fine public schools in this country, but the cost of living in their districts makes even considering moving to them a fantasy for those in society who are most in need of education to break the cycle of dependence upon welfare and crime. We have public schools in name only. What we actually have are de facto private schools.

More options to the public school system are needed to help expand the opportunities for those who need them most. Tragically, their lack places urban minorities at a distinct disadvantage. Why then, does the first black president oppose increasing school choice to help curtail generational dependency? Perhaps it has something to do with bosses of teachers unions being among the most frequent guests of the White House. Perhaps the unions do not want greater competition in education to break their monopoly of control on the youth of America.

And it’s not only the Progressive Left that is impeding increased academic opportunities for urban minorities like Martin. There are plenty of lily-white, wealthy, right wing suburbanites who want to keep “those people” out of their neighborhood and out of their schools—at all costs.

In the final analysis, it wasn’t racism, guns, or even George Zimmerman that killed Martin. It was a system that likes playing politics instead of pursuing solutions. Until we make quality schools available to all Americans, teens like Martin will continue to be thrown into a life reminiscent of Hobbes’ Leviathan: nasty, brutish, and short.

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