This Community Wants Good Public Education
Recently I wrote about 4 ways to keep public education alive. Here is a slightly different slant on the public interest in public education. Education has been one of the most significant messages from the Community Conversations we have been hosting.
We began Conversations in November of 2010 with the release of “Waiting for Superman” – a documentary that follows middle school students in low performing schools and their attempts to get into good high schools through a lottery. It is a disheartening film on several fronts – students who live in depressing and disruptive poverty, cities overwhelmed with problems, and teachers who shouldn’t be there. Almost 100 people came to First Baptist Church to talk about the film and to compare it to what we have and need for education in Buncombe County. Following that event, United Way has hosted over 34 small group conversations asking young people, business owners, nonprofit directors, and general community members what kind of community they want to live in , what keeps us from having that kind of community and what can be done to make it a better community. There are some very consistent themes which will be reported out in 2013 after the conversations have concluded. But in the meantime, I’d like to touch on what people in Buncombe County say about education.
1. Education should be of equally high quality – Kids need equal opportunity to learn. Schools should help disabled youth demonstrate their accomplishments and get a diploma. We want a fair community where every child has the chance to succeed. There should be community support for “equitable” education – support for public education that recognizes individual strengths and differences that translate into strengths.
2. Teachers are critical – We need more understanding teachers and smaller classroom size. We don’t need teachers judging kids based on family income. We want better teachers who will work with us (students) more. We want teachers who are there to help, have sense of humor, respect different learning styles, and are patient. There needs to be respect for teachers. Teachers’ jobs should be do-able.
3. Education is the gateway to a good life - We need to tie the real world into school. We must teach kids how to learn for themselves. There should be community college classes for every interested high school student. Children must be given the skills they need for wherever they want to go. Educate students about career options, education versus no education, and salary differences. Youth need education which leads to a job and the opportunity to choose a meaningful career.
4. Individuals want to help – We want a community that values its children and provides innovative public education system that is congruent with the families that are involved. We want a community that believes in public schools. We need a synergistic relationship between community and school. Our community must hold each other accountable and call people out on their lack of engagement or follow through. This is a shared responsibility – educators and community. People need to become more educated about the needs and the issues that our school systems have. We need truth tellers. We should create a greater level of volunteerism.
There are many more quotes, but these give you a sense of what people say when they talk about education. What would you say? Share your ideas for our community and include your ideas around education. Then share your thoughts with our elected officials – local, state and national- about the importance of a strong public education system. The future of our community depends upon it.