I went to a special showing last night of Waiting for Superman shown in Sisters Chapel at Spelman College to a packed house. Afterward a panel of change agents addressed questions raised by the movie and questions asked by the audience. The panel members were civil rights leader Lonnie C. King, former chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools system of Washington, D.C., Michelle Rhee, and Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, president of Spelman College since 2002. They collectively can boast success in catalyzing profound change in education rights.
Sad and telling statistics were quoted. Public policies were discussed. Challenges were outlined. And hopes and expectations were offered. And the bottom line: get involved.
Georgia’s education system is ranked 49th in the United States. And the United States ranks 14th out of 34 OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries for reading skills, 17th for science, and 25th for mathematics. So how can politicians even consider cutting costs in education?
These are the very same politicians who keep insisting that they are focused on creating jobs and getting the American economy humming again. Does that not require job training and an improved education system? Or is the goal of creating future workers too long term for these short-sighted, short-term thinkers to consider?
This quarter’s profits are what matter. And that can be achieved by other more immediate means that will appease our fellow citizens, the corporations. According to the testimony of Bill Gates before Congress, it is now necessary to import brain power from other countries to fill the high tech needs of American corporations. Our politicians don’t seem too concerned about allowing our borders to be porous when corporations that line their pockets with campaign money require it. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.
I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. Until now, I have been a “click activist.” I’ll click on the button and “sign” the petition. And that can be of help. StudentsFirst.org successfully lobbied against Georgia’s LIFO policy of letting teachers go. That was a petition I was happy to sign. It is an antiquated system that rewards years worked and degrees “earned” rather than merit. (Earned is perhaps too kind. I’ve read and edited a number of Master’s theses coming out of the Education Department. Many of them would have a received a C or less in my freshman composition class.)
Tomorrow I begin a new volunteer position tutoring English. It seems our education system is allowing too many students to fall through the cracks, and they require additional help when they reach the college level. This may be a small contribution, but at least a handful of students will know that somebody cares enough to give up a few hours of her Saturday to help them.
Get involved. Join an organization that will allow your voice to be heard. There is strength in numbers. And do what you can, where you, when you can. Enough is enough. When high school seniors are reading at the third or fourth grade level, it’s time to do SOMETHING.
(Next it’s time to do something about the infrastructure. The shortened version of the movie and the panel discussion lasted less than two hours. I was crawling on the interstate to get there and get back and trapped in the poorly designed parking garage for a total of four hours. Perhaps these civil engineers went to public schools. And surprise! There is no mass transit system available in Atlanta that could take me from point A to point B.)