Voice: Landri Taylor

Landri Taylor is president and CEO of Denver Urban League.

“There is an opportunity for us all to take off the sunglasses and say this is an American problem. We can’t leave anyone behind.”

The culture in the United States has changed and it has changed dramatically, I think, to where there wasn’t a tremendous amount of what I would call strong drive in American families with their kids. And without that strong drive, kids actually believed they had a choice of whether to go to high school. It was an amazing revelation that kids could choose whether they could go to school or not. I have not seen anything like that. And if you continue to slice and dice it up, kids grew up not thinking that they had to have a job of any stature, that they could just work, lay off, work and lay off again. They simply did not have that thirst for wealth, that thirst for advancement, that thirst for material things.

Landri Taylor

Landri Taylor

That is my take about what has been going on through all of those years from the ‘80s to the ‘90s. And now we are in a position or place in time throughout America where we recognized the great damage that we did in this generation. We took it for granted. We didn’t continue the drive through our kids and their kids about why education is number one. We may be number one in the United States, but the only we got there and can stay there is through education, being smarter, being the innovator.

The pipeline is empty for home grown engineers, for home grown almost anything.

We have to reverse that and talk about it in a very honest way. We’re having the same challenge in the black community, as in the Hispanic community, as in the Asian community, as the white community. So far the story has been really focused on minority youth, where the widest gaps exist. But trust me, Caucasian youth and families have the same difficulty. There is an opportunity for us all to take off the sun glasses and say this is an American problem. We can’t leave anyone behind.

This whole revelation in my own mind and where I sit as CEO of the Urban League is that at one time I was really against charters and vouchers in public education. Now I am 100 percent for charters. I’m 200 percent for vouchers. I am at the point where we cannot afford to let parents stay shackled in any environment, suburban as well as urban, when it comes to kids’ education. They have to have the freedom to take that piece and go anywhere they so choose. That education will respond to that by making it more competitive for kids to want to go to one school over another.

It’s thrilling, it’s exciting for me think about it if we can flip the coin, turn the corner and get in that direction. I see the mindset is starting to swing. Jobs follow great education. Great education doesn’t follow jobs. Denver Public Schools, we’re at a point, Denver Public Schools are getting it.

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