BY SHARON MARTIN
To prevent a repeat of the last election cycle, I suggest we get to know our candidates. What do you want from our new education leader and from the legislators who dole out funding?
Do you believe public money should pay for private schools? Maybe you’re worried that CEOs won’t make enough money on high-stakes tests and new online charter schools. Are you so concerned about marriage equality that you can’t be bothered with public education?
Let’s hope enough of you are in the John Green camp to make a difference in the elections. He believed that “public education … exists for the benefit of the social order.”
As it stands, the social order is breaking down. In this country a wealthy C student is four times more likely to get a college education than a poor A student. Poor people in the U.S. have fewer chances to move up than do those in any other wealthy country. We have a higher rate of poverty.
We shortchange education, and we do it in the name of reform. Real reform doesn’t mean college prep for all. But shouldn’t everyone who wants to go to college be able to … without crippling debt?
Right now, reform aims for workers who know just enough to follow orders. Education “reformers” blame the teachers for this state of affairs. Not so fast.
“You can have the best teaching in the world and it’s not going to do anything when kids are hungry,” says educator Stephen Krashen.
Hunger isn’t the only issue. The most damning may be children growing up in a language-poor environment. Whether it is because parents have too many low-paying jobs, lack education themselves, or simply can’t afford books and magazines, many poor children start school more than two years behind on standardized language development tests.
The disadvantages start as early as 18 months, according to research by Stanford’s Ann Fernald.
Education reform must hold hands with economic reform. Every school deserves teachers who have actually been trained to teach, well-stocked library and a librarian, counselors, music and art, and community outreach. Students who start behind need extra resources. So do their families.
This requires funding. The candidates I vote for must be brave enough to ask every citizen and corporation to pay a fair share.
And why should we be willing to educate other people’s kids?
“It’s because I don’t like living in a country with a bunch of stupid people,” John Green says.
What does your candidate say?
– Sharon Martin lives in Oilton, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer