There are three Hope Lutheran schools in Milwaukee, each serving low-income north side students, each part of the private-school voucher program, and each with high aims when it comes to academics and character traits. The schools have a variety of contests across the year. In the fall, they had a “Hope Idol” contest.
The winning entry was a video made by sixth-grade students from the Hope Fortis school, 3601 N. Port Washington Rd. It’s a take-off on Beyonce’s hot song and video, “Single Ladies.” This one is called “Scholar Ladies.” The students’ effort is picking up steam as a YouTube video – there have been more than 100,000 hits on it, it’s been featured on CNN, and the student are determined to find ways to promote it until they get at least 1,000,000 hits.
In the students’ version, the goal is not to “put a ring on it” but to get high grades by working hard, and to keep your eye on 2016 – the year their class will graduate high school.
I can’t escape making contrasts to a book I started reading this past weekend, Ron Suskind’s Hope in the Unseen: An American Odyssey from the Inner City to Ivy League. The 1998 book opens with a vivid and disturbing account of what it was like to be a gifted and aspiring student at a deeply dysfunctional high school in Washington, D.C., where all the social pressure (even to the point of violence) was to get involved in social life and street life. Kids such as the student protagonist who wanted to do well in school were hounded as nerds, or worse.
The Hope Schools message is just the opposite. “Get an A on it,” the kids sing. Which is the grade everyone involved should get for this video.