Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Today I learned that Bill Clinton's middle name is Jefferson. So presidential.

"'We're all in this together' works better than 'You're on your own'" -Bill Clinton

"Education is more than a luxury; it is a responsibility that society owes to itself." -Robin Cook

It's not just about elementary education, though that is what is in my blog and on my mind on a daily basis. Today I thought a little more about higher education. At UCD today, 2 of our current Democratic congressmen--Garamendi and McNerney, 2 Democratic candidates--Bera and Hernandez, and our 42nd president Bill Clinton, came and spoke on the quad. It was pretty awesome, and I wish Hernandez was in my district because I want to vote for him! And not just because he was an astronaut. (Though how cool is that!? As the son of migrant farm workers, he saw on TV Americans walking on the moon and said, that's what I want to do---and then he did it!) 
I stole this picture from my sister, who brought a real camera this morning.
Anyway, while I still think that the key to turning our nation around is investing in elementary education, we can't forget about those for whom it's too late. And we need to continue offering quality education at all levels, and not just quality, but affordable. Clinton talked a bit about student loan reform this morning, and made a good point: if you set up student loan programs in a way where students are actually able to pay loans back, you're going to have a lot more students actually pay their loans back instead of defaulting them. 

I really believe that education is the solution, in so many ways. America has bizarre priorities sometimes. Why wouldn't you want to invest in counteracting poverty when it can lead to fewer people dependent on welfare, and fewer people in our jails? We spend more on prisons than we do on schools, when what we should really be spending money on is investing in children so that fewer of them drop out and end up in prison. 

One thing that really stuck with my from my Minnesota Reading Corps training over a year ago was a video we watched called "How Do You Spell Murder?" The takeaway I got from the short movie was that, when you heard these criminals' stories, their failures in school seemed intertwined with ending up in prison. In the movie, we see the power of literacy, how, even adult men in jail for murder, find hope and empowerment in learning to read. 

Imagine if that hope and empowerment were instilled in elementary school. Imagine if they were provided with proper resources and effective, dedicated teachers. Imagine if college were a realistic, feasible goal for ALL students. Imagine how that could have changed the direction of these prisoners' lives. Every single child in America has enormous potential, and it's time we recognize that, and give every last one of them the opportunity to quality education, and a positive future.

I'll leave you with this video of Malcolm X. London's poem "High School Training Ground", which won top individual performance at the "Louder Than A Bomb" poetry slam competition in Chicago. He's someone for whom the school system has failed. Or perhaps, as he puts it, the school systems are succeeding, with the goal prepare their students to carry on the status quo, to step into the roles society provides for them, good or bad. London eloquently tells it like he sees it. 
And remember, make sure to vote in November! 

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