This past week the nation mourned the loss of R. Sargent Shriver, who first answered the call in 1961 for national public service from the then President of the United States, who just happened to be his brother-in-law, by becoming the founding director the Peace Corps which will this year have nobly served the needy of this world for a half a century. Throughout his remarkable life he championed public service in many forms and was one of its most ardent solicitors for participants, particularly from the younger generation that was so energized by the famous words of President Kennedy in his inauguration speech "...ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country".
Besides his known work with the Peace Corps, Shriver also notably worked on President Johnson's 1964 War on Poverty by serving as the first director of the Office of Economic Opportunity which spawned such programs as Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), Community Action Program (CAP), Jobs Corps, Head Start and the Neighborhood Youth Corps; served as ambassador to France from 1968-1970; founded the Congressional Leadership for the Future (CLF); was actively involved in a variety of political activities; ran as George McGovern's vice president in 1972; and in the 1980s and 90s served as Chairman of the Board of Special Olympics International. What is less known about Sargent Shriver was his public service in education in the 1950s by directing the Catholic Interracial Council, which was established to desegregate the schools, as well as serving the Chicago Board of Education.
It is that last attribution that brings me to why I think he would be most proud today. Specifically, we continue to struggle nationally to improve public education systems all over America that produce a large percentage of graduates who need remedial courses in college before they can even enroll in courses for credit (55% in Arkansas in 2009) and 25% of whom cannot even pass the Army's basic entry exam. Some of the more popular programs to address these problems, as discussed in the recent documentary movie Waiting for "Superman", include among others merit pay, charter schools, longer school days and years, a variety of student assessment programs, and teacher accountability. However, there is one public service program devoted to education that is actually making a real difference now where it is needed most and that is Teach for America. Learn more about this amazing organization at http://teachforamerica.org.
As showcased just today in our Sunday edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, this marvelous program melds perfectly with Sargent Shriver's repeated calls for public service to the youth of our nation 50 years ago with a current systemic and measurable need. In our state we hired 169 of these young people this school year who commit two years of their lives to go into mainly impoverished areas sorely in need of teachers to augment their existing staffs. More times than not these young people lack any formal teaching education, for which they more than compensate with their intellect, as many come from elite universities, and enthusiasm to help others and make a difference. Teach for America is so popular that they are able to hire only 10% of those who apply (4,500 out of 46,000 applicants in 2010). More importantly, and maybe just because of their lack of traditional training, these teachers incorporate many new and innovative ideas and concepts into their teaching methods that excite the students and get overall classroom participation. Learn the full story of how "fears turned to hope" for the school superintendent and principal in one of our Arkansas cities in need thanks to a committed young lady from Ohio who works for Teach for America at http://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2011/jan/23/program-filling-gaps-thin-teacher-ranks-20110123/?subscriber/arkansas.
One amazing fact that you will also learn from that article is that our state Department of Education contributes only $3,000 per teacher for up to 100 such teachers from this program while our old nemesis Mississippi contributes $13,000 per teacher from Teach for America! Does "Thank God for Mississippi" have any relevance in our world today? One superintendent in our Delta region, where teacher salaries are only 72% of what is paid in the larger metropolitan school districts in Arkansas, is so impressed with the results they have experienced that she has created a "retention plan" to keep these Teach for America teachers in her community. In short, this program is to be commended and rewarded with our full support both morally and financially.
Laura Raborn at http://paintingsofhome.com and http://claygifts.com
Jim Johnson at http://yessy.com/jimjohnson/gallery.html
Russ Powell at http://powellphotos.com
Linda Flake at http://lindaflake.com
Tom Herrin at http://tommysart.blogspot.com
Matt McLeod at http://firstname.lastname@example.org
Artists Registry at http://www.arkansasarts.org/programs/registry/default.aspx
Sandy Hubler Fine Art at http://sandyhublerfineart.com
George Wittenberg at http://postcard-art-gallery.com
Will Barnet at http://www.google.com/images?hl=en&expIds=17259,17315,23628,23670,24472,25834,26095,26328,26562,26637,26761,26790,26849,26992,27095,27126,27139,27147,27178&sugexp=ldymls&xhr=t&q=will+barnet&cp=9&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=univ&ei=xpfETMT1O4L6lwf66ugE&sa=X&oi=image_result_group&ct=title&resnum=2&sqi=2&ved=0CEkQsAQwAQ&biw=1350&bih=501
Barry Thomas at http://barrythomasart.com
Sherry Williamson at http://meowbarkart.com
Julie McNair at http://juliemcnair.com
Local Colour Gallery at http://localcolourgallery.com
Chroma Gallery at http://chromagallery.com
Cantrell Gallery at http://cantrellgallery.com
Greg Thompson Fine Art at http://gregthompsonfineart.com
Red Door Gallery at http://reddoorgalleryonline.com
M2 Gallery at http://m2lr.com
UALR Gallery Program at http://ualr.edu/art
Gallery 26 at http://gallery26.com
Boswell Mourot Fine Art at http://boswellmourot.com