The Pre-K-8 district where I last worked had its flaws, but demographically, it was public education at its finest.
A mere blip on the map of one of NYS state’s wealthiest counties, our district served both the most privileged kids and the neediest. Our students learned–from one another–about Ramadan, the Holocaust, immigration, civil rights. Every kid–regardless of status–had the same direct access to a highly effective, trained, dedicated faculty and first class facilities on a lush campus. One of the perks of working here was my small role in this cultural and socio-economic ideal.
Ideal may be the operative word, however.
Kamala Harris’ and Joe Biden’s recent–and incomplete– discussion about busing reminds us that education in this country remains unequal. Awkward attempts to find balance have largely failed. Racial segregation, poverty, and geography are only three of the forces that continue to fuel a system that apparently neither promotes cultural exchange nor provides instructional equity.
High school grads possess the same credentials signifying their achievement. Because of where they attended school, though, these graduates don’t necessarily possess equal skill sets.
That the issue came up in the recent Democratic debate, is a good sign. A very good sign. Equal access to quality education is perhaps one of the three most pressing problems facing us as a nation. Education is at the heart of a functioning democracy and a prosperous economy.
And here’s another thought: it will be educated kids who will find solutions to the other two pressing problems facing us: climate change and world peace.
That the issue came up via a two-candidate personal skirmish, however, is not such a great sign. We need candidates to own this challenge, not just for an evening or a sound byte. We need candidates with vision, a plan. The proposal doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to be a start.
By the way: I love the idea of free community college for students who qualify. Kudos to Elizabeth and Bernie. But success in college calls for prerequisites. For some students, by the time they reach college age, it may be too late.
Kids who haven’t had the benefit of a quality K-12 experience will be underprepared for collegiate demands. They may be under-employed, too. We have to commit to starting earlier, giving every kid a chance to successfully and equally participate in free college.
I don’t know how to fix this; I am merely a simple retired school teacher. Money is surely a huge component of any solution. Cultural understanding and racial respect will play a role as well.
I do know that everyone benefits when our populace is educated. I also know–from experience– how well equity works in the context of a school. I think it is time we demanded some potential answers from the people who are asking for our vote.