Crisis of education
Alex Karamol | Friday, April 1, 2011
If there is one person I swore to myself I would never become, it was the person who writes Viewpoint articles while abroad. And while I have been agonizing over the lack of spoons in the dining hall, the hook-up culture and the existence of Saint Mary’s these past few months, it is for something altogether different that I feel compelled to write.
On April 13, four national education reformers will come to Notre Dame to present a panel: “The System: Opportunity, Crisis, and Obligation in K-12 Education.” Last semester, I attended a campus showing of “The Lottery,” a documentary following children hoping to attend one of New York City’s elite charter schools. Instead of the perfunctory question-and-answer session typically following these sorts of events, I looked around and saw that my fellow attendees were riveted. I watched as tempers flared, voices raised and hand after hand rose to speak. And thank goodness, because we need to be talking.
When discussing education, it is all to easy to list the statistics, but I challenge all of you to attend the panel and forget about the numbers. They will always be there in some degree of imbalance, taunting us, reminding us that Finland produces more graduates, that males drop out at a faster rate than females … the list goes on. What will not always be there are the students. They will grow up, maybe graduate, maybe not, and many of them will enroll their own children in the same troubled system.
There is a crisis in our nation, but it is not a crisis about percentages. It is a crisis about children. So we must start talking, start asking questions. Are charter schools the answer? Or do they lack accountability? How do we define accountability? How do we keep good teachers in schools and keep bad ones out? How do we determine what is a “good” versus a “bad” teacher? Each question prompts ten more, in an infinite spiral you should get a math major to explain to you. We cannot get discouraged. But we can talk.