Yesterday and today I have been at my dear old Towson High School, serving as a judge/advisor for "Project Citizen." Ninth-graders have to a) identify and b) come up with solutions for real problems where they live.
This is not the nebulous stuff of beauty-contest questions, in which people say they want to bring about world peace or teach the children of the world to love each other. They deal in the real. For example, there is a traffic circle in the heart of Towson, built at the confluence of York, Dulaney Valley, and Joppa Rds. This has been a monstrosity from the day it opened, chiefly because it's a miniature two-lane highway, and when people are on the inner lane and want to get off the roundabout and go on about their lives, they sometimes cannot, and they have to keep circulating like a pair of socks left in the dryer to go around again and again.
And the road becomes a political football for the county and the state governments, kicked back and forth and forever subject to Planning Commissions concerned with Traffic Flow and I don't know what-all else. There are many people who avoid the entire traffic circle and will drive as far as Cleveland, Ohio, to avoid getting caught in it. One of those people gave birth to me, and the other married me, is all I'm saying.
But I listened to the students as they excellently - and there is no higher praise from me; they were superb! - laid out their ideas. They did surveys, asking several hundred people for ideas. They contacted other jurisdictions and road-building firms to get their thoughts. These students - 14, 15 years of age, did deep and thorough research on the issue, and presented their findings well.
Other students did presentations on owning and maintaining backyard chicken coops in the county, and improving access in schools for students dealing with permanent and temporary mobility challenges. All excellent work, and I will be back today, in classrooms I once occupied while Nixon was president, learning more and apprehending new ways of dealing with old problems.
Because it dawned on me as the students talked about the difficulties of navigating the traffic circle...they're freshmen in high school! They aren't driving through that mess, they're walking through it, trying to get to the mall or wherever.
In all the talk talk talk I've heard over the years about that circle, I don't believe I remember hearing an adult discuss the hazards to pedestrians.
It's a nice reminder to pay attention to the young people among us. They amaze me every time.