It's about our community and our spirituality!

Educating Our Future Is No Game


It is with baited breath that I wait for the release of Blizzard’s Diablo III.  I love the Diablo franchise.  One genre of game play that is practically ignored is the real time strategy play games like Diablo.  Other games of this genre are Command and Conquer, War Craft, and Starcraft.  War Craft went all first person shooter on me.  The sequel to Starcraft, Starcraft II will be released about the same time Diablo III is released.  My guess is that Blizzard is using the same basic game engine wrapped around two different environments, one all dungeon and dragon-ish and the other set in space.  Civilizations is another hot franchise that fits this game type.  Unfortunately, I’ve never played this title.

Until one or both of the next generation Starcraft and/or Diablo game makes it to the public, I’ll make due switching between the Starcraft Expansion Set and the Diablo II Lord of Destruction game.  I’m still having trouble killing Baal on the Hell setting, the hardest level.  And the fact that the game can generate a new game matrix on the fly helps keep the game from becoming too stale.

But one other strategy game that I truly love happens to be SimCity IV.  This is the Sims game where you have to build a city from scratch staring with one hundred thousand simoleons.  With that, as the Mayor of the city, you have to build roads, zone for residential, commercial, and business districts, lay the infrastructure with water and electricity, prepare for waste removal, provide for fire protection and police patrol, provide for the public’s education from elementary school through college, as well as provide for entertainment and the fine arts.  It’s a balancing act to get a city running just right to sustain itself with growth and prosper with long term expansion.  Spend too much and the city can’t recover the cost.  Don’t spend enough and the city can’t grow.  I love this game!

One of the secrets to growing a city is to stay on top of the people’s need for education.  An educated work force will demand good jobs and increase the tax base with revenue coming back for the city to spend in other areas and expand.   There are five basic areas of education that have to be funded:  elementary schools, libraries, high schools, museums, and the college.  Any drop in one of these areas will result in a city with a population unable to reach its full potential.

When it comes to elementary schools and the high schools, the Mayor has the ability to set busing zones around the school allowing a single school to cover a larger portion of the city.  With enough funding for bus service, one school can handle a pretty large portion of the city.  However, I discovered that if I keep the busing zone as small as possible, the school will handle a much smaller portion of the city.  However, the money I saved from busing more than makes up for the need for a greater number of schools.  And since the schools were handling a smaller area they were handling a smaller number of students and didn’t need as much funding for teaching as its mega busing zone counterpart.

And there was another benefit as well.  If for some reason I’m distracted with another issue in town and the number of students in any school exceeds what was planned, the teachers at the school will strike.  The area with the striking teachers starts to decline.  If the zone is small the impact to the rest of the city is small and easier to correct.  When the area is larger, the impact to the city is larger and it takes more effort and more time to correct any problems.  With zero simoleons being paid for busing and smaller simoleon amounts being used to keep the schools running, more smaller schools beats fewer mega schools every time.

Just this past weekend it was announced that one of the larger schools on the black side of town might be targeted for closure.  Sumner High School was the first high school designated specifically for the African American community west of the Mississippi River.  Some famous Sumner attendees include Josephine Baker, Katherine Dunham, Dick Gregory, Chuck Berry, Tina Turner, Robert Guillaume, Arthur Ashe, William Clay, and Redd Foxx.  Sumner High was named after Charles Sumner, the radical Republican Senator from Massachusetts who worked fervently to abolish the institution of slavery in America.

Sumner is a very large building designed to hold way more students than the number that currently attends.  Like many schools, as it grew with the city and enrollment increased it was expanded with all kinds of additions to expand its capacity.  But like many schools in the African American community, it suffers from neglect bordering on criminal.  And like other schools within declining St. Louis’ city limits, as the population dwindled, the school’s attendance has dwindled as well until it now appears to make more sense to close this large high school and merge the student population with a neighboring high school.  Sumner would be mothballed so it can deteriorate even further before the city finally condemns the structure and sentence whatever’s left to a wrecking ball.

However, as soon as some people in the black community found out that Sumner might be closed there was a rallying cry to save the school.  It is historic.  It deserves to continue its existance because it existed.  We need to keep this school open because back in the day it was a great school.  Now, Sumner is better known for its gang violence and the occasional spike in asbestos dust levels when one of the tiles gives up the ghost and falls off the ancient ceiling.  A week doesn’t go by without some student trying to burn the building down.  And the apathy of the students is exceeded only by the apathy of faculty and staff.  I’m sorry, but to condemn future students to this environment simply because Sumner was once a great school is to condemn the black community’s future to a failing relic of our past.  Sumner was great once upon a time.  The greatest thing Sumner can do now is close its doors.

But the idea of increasing the busing zones and the busing expense to make another mega school just don’t make sense when the simoleons are coming out of my pocket.  Students getting on buses to go even further away from home and their community doesn’t make a lot of sense.  Schools should get back to serving their immediate neighborhoods.  With all the vacant land and abandoned buildings that pepper the city, especially in the black neighborhoods, it should be a no brainer to make smaller and more efficient schools instead of the ever increasing in size and scope schools that are steadily putting our children in a teaching environment with even less incentive to assure that the needs of individual neighborhoods are met.

Granted, I’m using a game with a currency based on simoleons for the foundation of my argument.  But nevertheless, smaller schools with children and young adults who attend within walking distance sounds very good to my social senses.  The idea of students staying in their own neighborhoods and having a better chance of developing some kind of sense of community sounds like a no brainer.  The idea of keeping our schools small and manageable is an attractive one.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009 - Posted by | African Americans, Black Community, Black Culture, Black People, Education, Life, St. Louis, Thoughts


  1. I have been a huge fan of the SImCity series since the original….and have the SimCity 4 deluxe version….one question on the educational realm of the game that I have failed to master……the schools seem to lose a lot of students as time goes do I reverse this issue?
    And the traffic….good lord, I wont even go into that one…I can have low density everywhere and still have massive traffic congestion!

    Comment by Mike Lovell | Tuesday, January 6, 2009 | Reply

    • Thanks for the feedback Mike Lovell,

      Another something we have in common!

      I found out that the schools are cyclical. They’ll go through high and low enrollments. It’s part of the generational shift of the population. And I solved the traffic issue by putting a highway straight up and down as well as left and right of the center of a city, with a cloverleaf intersection right smack dab in the middle. One of the first things I do with my city is borrow enough simoleons to build one leg of the highway. That, and I change the roads to streets as soon as possible. Hope it helps!


      Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Tuesday, January 6, 2009 | Reply

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