That album was a hit back in my Lee County High School (Sanford, NC) days. I had the occasion to hear a song from that album today as I drove through my adopted home town. The tune and the familiar roads brought back fond memories of the way it was back then.
I was quickly reminded though just how much and how fast things are changing.
I drove past the tobacco fields where I worked as a youth. Some were still farmland. Some were converted to real estate and other commercial ventures.
The highways from Sanford to the cities of Raleigh, Durham, Fayetteville, and Chapel Hill are vastly improved. You can get to any of these creativity and business centers in under an hour, and many people do that for work, shopping and entertainment.
The Hispanic population is significant…probably approaching 20% of the population. This demographic is the biggest difference from my youth. Tiendas, restaurants, and other Hispanic businesses dot the main roads, and the Hispanic influence is an interesting addition to the town’s rich Southern cultural tapestry.
The once thriving downtown was dying when I lived there in the 70’s and 80’s. The recent revitalization efforts have added restaurants, art shops, a few businesses, no-income housing, and housing for the elderly and disabled.
I stopped by the factory where I worked many teenage summers and spoke to an acquaintance going on her 30th year there. The factory was the third in the town when it relocated from Manhattan in 1974. That started an industrial boom, and the county grew to accommodate over 80 factories at one time. It is still home to significant industry, but many factories have discontinued or have highly automated their operations.
Then I drove past my sprawling high school campus which until recently housed close to 2500 students. It was about the only thing on the landscape that looked the same from the outside as it did in the 70’s. I know the challenges on that school have multiplied in recent years. I wonder how well Lee Senior or any high school in NC for that matter is responding to NCLB, shifting demographics, relevance, technology, the push for quality professionals, and the competition for funding dollars in times of scarcity.
As I drove I glanced down at a book I’m reading called Planet India: How the Fastest-Growing Democracy is Transforming America and the World (Kamdar, 2007). I thought of school funders and the kids we are serving. I wondered if we are all on the same page when it comes to the future of our kids and our country.
On my way out of town, I saw the construction of a massive highway cloverleaf designed to create an eventual bypass around the town of Sanford.
With all this unprecedented change around us, is it conceivable to think that bypasses can be built around an educational system that was perfect for the industrial age? More troubling, are bypasses to success already being built around people (young and old) who are ill-prepared for the global competition that is upon us and predicted to multiply exponentially in the no-so-distant future?