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Why Wait for Superman?

We must have faith and respect in education before we can truly institute reform

By Gina Yu

It’s no secret that the American educational system has received more than its share of rough feedback the past few months. From public education to even, arguably, one of the best institutions in America, our system has seen criticism at every turn. If we have learned anything from this entire backlash, however, it is that no one is properly learning anything. The quality of education is fast declining, and we literally need a superhero to help us back up.

Though this sudden and much-needed increase in awareness is better than ignoring the open-sore educational wound, the depressing tone these articles adopt will not solve anything. Some do attempt to inspire change by reassuring us readers that we might be the next superheroes, but it is difficult to sell such a pitch after convincing us the problem is practically unfixable: even trained professionals enacting reforms costing hundreds of thousands of dollars still can’t effect change. While the statistics can inspire, they can also add fuel to the already growing fire of disrespect for American schooling.

As President Barack H. Obama said in his State of the Union address, this disrespect makes all the difference between America and other countries with strong educational systems. In South Korea, teachers are given the utmost respect and are even called “nation builders,” a title that is indicative of  how differently they are treated compared to those in America. President Obama said that “it’s time we treated the people who educate our children with the same level of respect.” But how do we change what has practically been pre-programmed into our minds? When the average American thinks of respectable job markets, medicine, business, and law sweep the top ranks while education is left somewhere in the middle, at best. If teaching were to be included in this power group, it could appeal to more people who shy away from careers in education because society considers them Plan B. It might attract the passionate and bright-minded to teach our future generations. True, the six-figure salary might still whisk away some graduates to other fields, but the educational field may not necessarily be the best fit for more money-minded individuals.

Lastly, we can’t forget the students themselves. They should be respected—or at least given an equal education. In the film “Waiting for Superman,” one child is afraid that she will forever be stuck in the same socioeconomic rut because people will not be able to look past her background and test scores. This seems to be a similar concern for educators in disadvantaged areas. After tutoring at a charter school in Boston, I was ashamed that I once shared this belief; I judged the students based on their preliminary test scores, and I assumed they would be unmotivated because they came from a high-risk area. To my surprise, the average tutee learned quickly and was engaged in the material. When given the opportunity, they proved their potential.

In order to reform American education, we must improve its connotations. Though it is true that it is difficult to garner respect in an area that lacks promising results, we can at least help the process by honoring educators instead of blaming them for our current educational crisis. If we continue describing the faults in the system without respecting its potential, we will stay in the mindset that American education lacks much and deserves little. At that point, even Superman will not be able to save us.

Gina Yu ’13, a Crimson editorial writer, is a computer science concentrator in Dunster House.

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