Mike Rose is on the faculty of the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies and the author of Possible Lives: The Promise of Public Education in America, The Mind at Work: Valuing the Intelligence of the American Worker, and his latest book Back to School: Why Everyone Deserves a Second Chance at Education. Visit his website and blog at www.mikerosebooks.com.
This blog was originally published four during the last presidential election. Four years later his words still resonate.
As the 2008 election moves center stage, I would like us to pause and ask ourselves the big question. Why do we as a nation yearly engage in the hugely expensive and culturally monumental ritual of sending children to school? During most of my time in school, my father was seriously ill, and my mother worked two shifts to keep us afloat. I was a disconnected and dreamy child, vaguely fearful of our circumstances, full of longing but without much direction. There’s a lot of kids out there like me. And they need all that school can provide.
From everything we hear, it’s to prepare the next generation for the economy, and that preparation is measured through scores on standardized tests. This has been the primary justification for education for a generation. But our children are more than economic beings, and learning and development cannot be reduced to a few test scores. Education turned my life around, so I come at this issue in a very personal way. I long to hear more in our national discussion about the powerful effect education can have on young people’s lives.