Neon Houses, the book I’m working on, is politically motivated. No, I’m not a politician, never have been, and I should know better than to try to write something I don’t know about, but it’s too tempting to resist.
The book will be YA or New Adult, I haven’t decided yet. While it’s nearly finished, there is still time. As of yet, I haven’t put any sex in it, just a kiss or two between my young, married heroine and her new husband. That should be okay because if the pregnancy rate amongst unmarried teens in America is any indication, I’ll only be offending the publishers and isn’t it a boon that indie writers don’t have to worry about publishers.
My message speaks to a class of people who will be lost due to poor education, no education, and failure to break generational chains that curse them to repeat familial mistakes again and again. It describes what has happened as a result of politicians’ hesitation to make the hard calls against the ills that put our future world in danger.
Not too long ago in America, children couldn’t drop out of school until they were 16. Today, that is not being enforced by all public school systems. Students can go missing from school for weeks at a time. School systems used to employ tens of men and women truant officers whose job it was to scour the neighborhoods for kids just hanging out.
Police officers, cruising neighborhood streets, would stop and quiz kids on corners during school hours. They would return them to their schools by the carloads. For a long while now, budget has cut down on the number of police cruisers in the neighborhoods, and these same cuts have all but eliminated truant officers. In my story, this cutting of services will show that society has suffered irrevocably.
Perhaps this decline is taking place in other countries, and I’d like to hear from you if it is, but American students, as a whole, rank extremely low on academic achievement tests. Our students cannot label other countries on a world map. Competition in schools has dwindled so much that an A or B is no longer a realistic gauge of what a student knows, but more a gauge of their good attendance and good intentions. University freshman classes now have a high percentage of students taking at least one remedial course.
In “The World is Flat”, author Thomas L. Friedman examines the growing foreign challenge to American education from Japan, China, and India. He talks about the grave lack of students who are proficient in math and science, and yet not one politician has made it his mission to take a harsh stance and tackle this problem.
This is the same America who told parents that they couldn’t spank their children anymore. The same America who empowered kids to call child services on their parents if they did so. It is the same America who allowed kids to go to court and sue their parents.
And yet, for years now, I haven’t seen one television broadcast, in my hometown, alerting both children and parents to the fact that it is 11:00 p.m. and parents should know where their child is? These curfew warnings were regularly broadcast not too many years ago. They made it clear to both children and adults that a line existed which distinguished children from adults. So that even the baddest little gang-banger knew he had to be in the house by 11:00 p.m. That was significant! That was HUGE.
Single mothers who worked nights to support their kids or who had to get up ridiculously early the next morning, could go to work or to sleep secure in the knowledge that a wayward boy or girl would be returned home. They’d be unceremoniously dumped on the doorstep with a harsh warning that arrest would follow future violations.
We often hear politicians tossing around blame for what is wrong with America and what’s wrong with the educational system. Most of the blame lands on the parents and the children while very little of it lands on the lawmakers.
Budget cuts to education and cuts to social programs have been made carelessly, willy-nilly, and we find ourselves in a situation where lawlessness, joblessness, and disrespect prevail.
We find ourselves in a situation where American students can’t diagram a simple sentence, solve a math word problem, or speak any language except their own, and that very poorly. Our students don’t expect to find a good job and some don’t expect to live ‘til 21.
So, the book I’m writing speaks to the aftermath of this decline. A decline that festered and grew because not one powerful person had the balls to step up, step out, and say, “Stop this! Get your shit together, Everybody, or there will be consequences! We will enact and enforce them to save the life of this land that we love.”
That is the premise that propels “Neon Houses”.