The 2012 elections have ended and one of the big questions is what the results mean for public education. So now is a good time for us to take charge of what we want public education to look like. What can we control?
4 Ways to Keep Public Education Alive
1. Create A Culture of Learning to Keep Public Education Alive
Our country needs people who want to understand the world and want to make it a better place. If adults exhibit a curiosity about life around them, children will share that enthusiasm for learning. Why do computers work this way? How can technology help us understand? What is the magic of nature? Of relationships? Of the written word? If this community supported a wide range of opportunities to learn new things, perhaps our curiosity and that of our children will get the best of us and we will seek to understand.
2. Opportunities for All Children is a Must if We Are to Keep Public Education Alive
I’ve heard it said that the only thing standardized tests demonstrate is the socio-economic status of the children taking the tests. I’ve also heard that once the scores get too high, the testing gurus decide the test is too easy and so they make it harder – harder for the children who have fewer opportunities to learn outside of school. In addition to the many ways schools work to broaden children’s experiences and knowledge, the community can provide creative interesting resources for children and families outside of the school day. We have the perfect place to do that. People who retire here with vast experiences and knowledge, a significant music, art and theatre presence, colleges with excellent faculty and students, local authors, scientists and technology experts, creative entrepreneurs, and public venues in which to offer interesting programs. To put it all together, we have thoughtful after-school providers, faith communities and publicly supported programs that can provide safe places and trained staff to present such resources.
3. Support for the Teaching Profession Must be a Central Part of Keeping Public Education Alive
Without teachers none of us would be doing what we are doing today. We have all learned from someone who taught us how to do something. Teaching is the pinnacle of a civilization. People who are called to spend their working lives helping children solve the puzzles of mathematics, science, language, history and society are HEROES. It’s hard work, it’s complicated, it’s different every day, it changes over time, but it offers great intangible rewards. Teaching should be the most valued and respected profession in our community and have the expectations for excellence to go along with such respect. Honor teaching.
4. Volunteering for Education
It’s in the best interests of every community to have well-educated residents. It makes our communities safer, cleaner and more economically viable. So how can the community impact schools? By volunteering and supporting public education. By setting a community standard for all children to do well in school. By figuring out the best way you can help. Clearly volunteering in a classroom can be a huge help to teachers and the kids, but not everyone is suited to that kind of volunteering. There are other ways to volunteer: supply drives for students and classrooms, portable projects such as making flash cards for classes, special events for after-school programs, fundraisers for schools, attending school board meetings and advocating for quality education, the list goes on. For starters, check out www.handsonasheville.org for volunteer opportunities already in place and our advocacy page for opportunities to advocate.
It’s a good time to understand the need for a strong public education system in this country. We can’t afford to support people who dropout, can’t read or can’t perform simple math. We need people who are smart and thoughtful and who are interested in jobs that make our country better. Once people understand that the success of our education system makes our own lives better, then getting involved is the next step. Find ways to help ensure a well-educated populace.