Chaos at West

West Philadelphia High School has been in the paper a lot lately, what
with a spate of violent acts by students towards teachers, the
replacing of the principal, and general chaos. I am saddened by the
state of affairs there, as it was the school I visited most often when
I used to run a youth entrepreneurship program.

I spent many a morning in the hallways and classrooms of that school,
which was built in the 1910's and has never been renovated, and which
has 1800+ students. My partner at the time joked that I once started
a riot there, but that was patently untrue, although it always gave me
a chuckle. In all seriousness, I had high hopes for the school, that
it could turn into the kind of place where students who wanted to
learned were given a supportive environment and committed people to
help them do that learning.

I am reminded of our own evolution in our summer business camp at the
non-profit where I used to work and where I am now on the board. We
had times when we lost control of the group and it was impossible for
anyone to focus on learning. And we had other times when we kept
control and youth were able to listen and participate and grow.

At many schools in many parts of this country, that sort of conducive
learning environment is taken as the norm. Not at West Philadelphia
High School. Although I still pray for the day that will be the case.

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