Empire editorial Dropouts aren't only ones saying, 'Who cares?'

Posted: Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Apathy, like so many of life's lessons, is learned at home by many Juneau students.

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We can blame that disinterest as a more-than-partial cause of poor academic performance, disciplinary infractions and high dropout rates.

But the dropouts aren't the only ones saying, "Who cares?"

In Juneau, only three people cared enough to subject themselves to the rigors of running for two open seats on the Juneau School Board on Oct. 2. Then one candidate, Gregory Brown, said he was dropping out early because of a history of debt. That left two candidates, JoAnne Bell-Graves and Destiny Sargeant, for two positions.

Out of 30,000 residents, only three could muster the energy to run, and only two cared enough to stay in the race, sacrificing their time for the sake of education and the good of our students. What does that say about the rest of us? On whom should we heap the shame?

A select few people were fired up in previous races, inspired by the opportunity to help create the new Thunder Mountain High School in Mendenhall Valley. They succeeded, and we will have a new building to show for it.

But who will assume the challenge of keeping the children inside that building? Who will look to the interests of future students? Is there a sense that the job's complete?

In fact, it's just beginning.

Bell-Graves and Sargeant gave reassuring answers when asked about the most pressing issues facing the school district. Bell-Graves voiced concern about the transition involving the new high school, and Sargeant said the "high dropout rate is a grave concern." A successful transition and lower dropout rate would be crowning glories for the Juneau School District. We wish the two new School Board members - oops, we mean candidates - full success in their endeavors.

After all, we see no better-qualified candidates. There are no other candidates, period.

If we give in to despair, we might say, "Well, the good news is the students are probably paying as little attention as everybody else." They probably could care less about who runs or doesn't run for School Board. They're probably too distracted to learn from the apathy of their role models.

But we have to fight that despair. Even if the only step we take is casting a vote in these one-candidate races, we have to take a step.

Maybe next time around, we'll have more adults teaching students to stand up and contribute. We can teach through example, and they'll learn to care because we do. Hopefully, when they say, "Who cares," we'll be able to point to more than two people.

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