Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Minimum Wage Destroys More Than Jobs; It Destroys the Opportunity for Inner-City Youth to Learn

By Victor J. Ward

In the first part of this century, I taught in East Palo Alto. I worked as a substitute teacher, a regular teacher, and as a Vice-Principal.

EPA used to be primarily Black. Then, Pacific Islanders started to move-in. Now, I would guess that the majority of the people that live there are Hispanic, with Pacific Islanders and Blacks vying for second place.

The city is interesting because it borders Palo Alto.

Several years ago, I was attending a Christmas party with my wife at my wife's boss' home. He lived in Palo Alto. The home was one of the nicest homes I have ever been in.
When we left, I got into my car and made a wrong turn. Within 30 seconds, I looked around and I said to my wife, "Hey, we're in EPA because that is the apartment building where several of my students live." (I knew where they lived because I had taken many students home.)

I consider the 2006/2007 school year as my first  year of real teaching. I taught in a charter school for 5th grade through 8th grade students. I taught 7th grade Math. I taught 4 classes. Each class had 30+ students.

Every day, I would drive to work, park my car, and pray to have the strength to get through the day.

On Sunday night, I needed Prozac.

We had the FBI come to our school to make arrests. We had guns on campus. We had knives on campus. We had large scale theft and vandalism.

Some of the students were wonderful.

Some were not.

I remember one young man. Let's call him Estevan. There is a Proverb that describes my view of Estevan:

Stone is heavy and sand a burden, but a fool's provocation is heavier than both.

At the time, I had no understanding of Libertarianism, but there were many instances where I wanted to violate the non-aggression principle and impart some wisdom to Estevan.

Whenever Estevan was sick, I smiled and breathed easy.

I would often joke that Estevan and the other trouble-makers in class would one day say, "Would you like fries with that?"

In 2012, I met with a friend named Mike to get a bite to eat. I was no longer teaching. Mike worked in Palo Alto, so we decided to eat at Jeffrey's Gourmet Hamburgers.

Mike ordered first. I had never been to Jeffrey's before, so when it was my turn I said, "I'll have what he's having."

"How would you like your burger cooked, sir?"

"I'll take it medium-rare."

"What kind of cheeses would you like, sir?"

"I'll take pepper-jack."

"What kind of fries would you like sir: Regular, garlic, or sweet potato?"

"Let's go with garlic."

"Would you like anything to drink, sir?"

"Sure, I'll take a large Coke."

"Hi, Mr. Ward."

This entire time, I had been staring at the menu that was on the wall and had not paid any attention to the young man who was taking my order.

It was Estevan!

But, this wasn't the same Estevan that I knew. This Estevan was respectful, and courteous, and responsible.

Sure, part of his maturity was because he was older, but age alone is not enough. Just go into the inner-city and see if you can find a ne'er-do-well that is over the age of 16.

As his teacher, I thought that Estevan asking people if they "wanted fries with that" was going to be his punishment for acting like a fool in the classroom.

What I did not realize was that this entry-level job was not a punishment but a blessing -- for both Estevan, for me, and for anyone who interacted with Estevan.

As the minimum wage destroys opportunities, we must prepare ourselves for more young men and women like Estevan 1.0.

Individuals like the unrepented Estevan cause trouble. When you multiply these individuals and they begin to fellowship with each other, that is a type of trouble that cannot be contained within the walls of a classroom.

Victor J. Ward  first came across libertarianism by reading Murray Rothbard's Ronald Reagan: An Autopsy and Walter Block's Defending the Undefendable. He holds a law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law and an MBA from Santa Clara University. He is author of The Smartest Christian In Babylon: why and how faith trumps science -- a common man's journey towards God

1 comment:

  1. When I was in highschool I got lots of experience in a number of different jobs, making me more valuable to future employers. Typically they paid next to nothing. If they had to pay me some arbitrary high minimum wage I would never have gotten those jobs and that experience. I'm afraid those opportunities are completely gone for today's yoots.