Have you heard a great deal about our Nation’s reading levels, education status, or literacy of any kind – civic, media, or communicative – during this campaign season? Probably not. As The Atlantic (Adam Harris) said last fall, “substantive conversation about the fundamental reform of education in America (is taking) a back seat to health care, foreign policy, and climate.” I ask: How will we solve problems and resolve issues associated with these three subjects if we do not have highly educated health care professionals, diplomats, and scientists? And, how will we work against the current reality of dissatisfaction and anger, based in marginalization and income inequality? For, as Elie Wiesel said, “Education is the key to preventing the cycle of violence and hatred that marred the 20th century from repeating itself in the 21st century.” Elie also said “there is no substitute for education.”
Many other scholars have reiterated this wisdom. Why, then, are candidates and journalists avoiding this subject almost entirely? And, why are candidates getting away with just talking points, i.e. “a Secretary of Education who believes in education,” or “teachers should be valued,” “tuition-free,” or “expansion of charter schools.” (God forbid when it comes to charter schools: please watch Backpack Full of Cash to dispel any myths you hold dear about such “alternatives.”). No, Presidential candidate, how, will YOU, specifically and realistically, BUILD, SUPPORT and ASSIST education and educators?
Why are we allowing this indifference? Why are we not hearing from parents? Why is education receiving only five minutes of attention, if that, in a two-to-three hour debate? In other words, how do we elicit conversations about this, the most important point of debate? For, as Elie Wiesel also said, “To remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all.”
First and foremost, education organizations (NEA, ALA, NSTA, ILA, NCSS, for example), need to organize their own nationally–televised debates (not just websites very few visit)!
Second, educators, librarians, and reading specialists should ALL bombard candidate networks (Presidential and otherwise), digitally and in real-time, with in-depth questions about specific policies AND how they hope to realistically implement such policies.
Third, citizens should be provided time off work to advocate for educational causes (yes, we need legislation which affords citizens the time to be citizens).
Fourth, we must spread the news (and our professional organizations should be doing the same through extensive public relations efforts) as to the state of education in the United States. The Condition of Education PISA Results
Fifth, we need to change the national mindset, via public relations, editorials, TV and conference appearances, from one of education as necessary to the work force to education as necessary to the development of a healthy, productive individual and citizen.
Sixth, inequality in funding of schools, in all states, counties, and districts, should be renounced and forbidden, with funds for charter schools returned to the building of, and upkeep of, public schools.
You may think “pie in the sky,” but, if so, refer back to Professor Wiesel’s calling. He understood in his very being the value of education and asked us to always remember! Will you pay heed? Will you read, remember, and realize?
What are YOUR ideas to help spread the word?
How will YOU take action on behalf of education and literacy this campaign season?