State of the Union: The more things change, the more they stay the same
Well, because I am a Gemini and enjoy being the center of attention, it is only naturaly, then, that I offer my pundancy on President Obama's remarks about education during his State of the Union speech.
1. "America has fallen to 9th in the proportion of young people with a college degree. And so the question is whether all of us – as citizens, and as parents – are willing to do what's necessary to give every child a chance to succeed."
With apologies to Amy Chua and her Tiger mom friends--who, by the way, I want to be friends with--we as a nation are not willing to do what is necessary. Some of us are. People like Amy Chua are willing to give their child a chance to succeed. But after a trip to the supermarket this afternoon, it was painfully obvious that not everyone buys into the same version of success.
It's true what they say about Western parents, at least if the irate response to Chua's memoir are any indication.
And what's more, many of us would rather wonder about the root causes of why some parents don't demand much out of their child other than allowing mom to sell the ADD medication for some really good stuff. If only the great oppressors would treat these people fairly, and by fairly they mean communistically, we could all live in a state of equality.
2. "Our schools share this responsibility. When a child walks into a classroom, it should be a place of high expectations and high performance."
Absolutely. Bravo Mr. President. Except that when a student doesn't live up to our expectations for behavioral appropriateness, we aren't allowed to do much with them. The States, in their federal government-like wisdom demand that schools limit punishments, especially if the student is a minority. We have to take them as they are, we have to fix them. I'm pretty sure we can't force them to scrub floors after a food fight, and I don't think it's allowed to make them run until they puke if they're caught skipping class.
Academically, well, that's a whole 'nuther story. From elementary school through middle school, our students are promoted based on age rather than ability. We expect our teachers to differentiate in a classroom full of readers who range from the 12th grade level to the 3rd grade level--for some it's Clifford the Big Red Dog and for others it's The Canterbury Tales. In the end, we are just mediocre.
3. "In South Korea, teachers are known as 'nation builders.' Here in America, it's time we treated the people who educate our children with the same level of respect. "
Again, a standing ovation, Mr. President. I'm not looking to be on the cover of Forbes magazine or sitting next to Oprah (but if you're reading Oprah, I would love to have coffee with you). But I wouldn't mind being reasonably compensated. Let me be clear, I don't complain about teacher salaries often, but my paltry $45,000 after 8 years of nation building compared to the $65,000 a friend makes for managing a restaurant (he does a great job, I will admit) just doesn't add up.
We allow anybody to run for and win positions on school boards, thus allowing them to make decisions about local education. We continue to add responsibilities, like parenting, to the job description. We talk about how important good teachers are to our students' succes. But in the end, the words are empty.
4. "Today, there are hundreds of thousands of students excelling in our schools who are not American citizens. Some are the children of undocumented workers, who had nothing to do with the actions of their parents. They grew up as Americans and pledge allegiance to our flag, and yet live every day with the threat of deportation."
The best part of his speech. In my Sports Literature class, we read Paul Cuadros's A Home on the Field, an exploration of immigration, education, and soccer in North Carolina. Before reading the book, I was unaware that students could spend the bulk of their academic careers in American schools, busting their butts to succeed despite all odds, only to be denied in-state tuition rates at their local state university because of their documentation status. It is unacceptable to deny these children such opportunities.
With that said, I give the President a C+. He didn't offer much that was new or innovative. And I don't think he fully targeted the real root of student failure, the student. He approached the role that parents play in student success, but he fell short of demanding accountability from them.