BY SHARON MARTIN
For years, so-called education reformers have been trying to rebuild the American education system that only needed tweaking. We’ve added millions of dollars in tests. We’ve determined that four years of advanced math are more important than basic math. We skim the surface of mandated subjects rather than really teaching the skills that matter – numeracy, literacy, and critical thinking.
As we demand more of students and teachers, we cut the funds they need to meet the demands. We set them up for failure then point fingers. Teachers are not respected; students are not served.
What do the reformers want? Most want profits. They want to take public money and put it into private bank accounts. Students are encouraged to attend colleges they can’t afford and to amass huge debts.
All through high school, students are not asked, “What are your passions? What do you want to do with your life?” Instead, they are asked, “Where are you going to college?”
If one answers, “I don’t want to go to college,” she gets a stern lecture about how much more she’ll earn if she gets a college education.
Tell that to the recent graduates who are occupying Wall Street and dozens of other streets around the world. What did college get them? A mountain of debt and a dwindling number of choices.
What if, instead of handing school funds to test makers, textbook publishers, and the CEOs of “education companies,” we assured every student in this country the best education our tax dollars can buy, including post-secondary education – college, technical school, apprenticeship? The student’s job would be to do the job. No one is suggesting a giveaway for slackers.
Those who grouse about the expense of educating everyone don’t understand: the real cost to society and to our democracy is in not educating everyone. We are paying now for a decade of No Child Left Behind, two centuries of unequal funding, and for the current push to turn schools into low-wage worker factories.
It’s not about profits; it’s about lives. And it is just one of the reasons that people have said, “Enough!” It is why many teachers support the occupiers.
The occupy movement is about equal opportunity. Opportunity demands a good education.
– Sharon Martin lives in Oilton, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer