Over the past few weeks, it's been hard to look away from the excitement of the Presidential primary season, especially since I just turned 18 in November and get to vote this time around. Because of this important and exhilarating election, my fellow student activists over at the NYC Students Blog have decided to take a break from our usual commentary on NYC education and instead talk about which candidates we as students (and some of us, first time voters) support and why the would be good for students around the country.
If NYC Students were to hold a primary election this week, I bet that we'd have a clear winner: Barack Obama, the candidate I will be casting my first ever vote for on February 5th.
I won't go to much into my initial reasons for supporting him besides saying that I really like his potential as a uniter and the possible historical and international impact of his election. As per education, and why I think he would he would be the best in that category, my answer, besides his great policies (which include a strong push for less high-stakes testing,) is Patriotism.
Right now, as many, including ED in 08, have pointed out, education is not really a priority on the national political scene. It loses out to many other issues on the importance scale, even though it is definitely one of the most important issues in terms of the future of our Country. It is so vital that the US Chamber of Commerce said that:
To maintain a competitive business environment in America, we need to have an accountable educational environment. We simply cannot have one without the other.
For the American Dream to thrive, it will require economic prosperity and opportunity for every American--and that requires a quality education that prepares our youth for the challenges of today and tomorrow.
I suspect that a large part of Education's fall on the issues list is due to apathy. American citizens have a government that they don't trust, a President who they don't approve of, and an economy that is failing at an alarming rate. If our Country is so terrible, who cares what happens to it? Right?
What we need to restart interest and investment in education is a resurgence of Patriotism: interest and investment in our Country. If we care about America then we care about its future and the only way to secure our future is to improve our failing education system.
The one candidate, in my mind, who has inspired this kind of energy is Barack Obama. The evidence of this was very prominent at his Iowa victory speech at which supporters spontaneously broke out into a chant of "USA! USA!" To us young people, Senator Obama represents the fulfillment of an American dream, the turning of a historical page, and the prospect of American unity after coming of age during two of the most divisive elections in American history. (On Wednesday, Matt Stoller of progressive strategy blog Open Left pointed out that in the NH primary, the youngest voting age group is extremely nonpartisan and voted 60% for Obama.)
If my youthful instincts are correct, an increased patriotic enthusiasm will lead to a nation more involved in its future and its education. Fiscally, this could mean larger edu-investments from both the government and the business communities. Socially, this could mean that the cultural roles of Teacher and Student, two groups which have for too long been withheld the respect they deserve, could improve as well.
While the policy wonks might criticize my thoughts as shallow, I truly believe that the only way we are going to improve the state of American education is to get get the public to care: to take a stake in the future of our Nation. In the market of America, education is an issue that's just not selling. In fact, it's sticking to the shelves. It will take a leader like Barack Obama, one who can inspire hope and faith in the essential goodness of our democracy, to make the American people realize that this issue is truly priceless.