Education – One of the Biggest Debates
I have been in the car with my family for four hours this morning driving back from vacation. Since we left, our car has been filled with the melodies of the “Hamilton” soundtrack. My children do not understand every aspect of the piece (they are little, so part of me is grateful that they don’t fully comprehend ALL of the subject matter), but they do understand that it is a story of freedom. Singing in unison, “it is something they can never take away.” However, while I listen to the Founding Fathers sing-song debates about the stronghold of England, a national militia, and a federal currency, Lin-Manuel Miranda missed one of the biggest debates the Fathers pursued… education.
“The importance of education is undeniable…”
The importance of education is undeniable. Its existence, imperative. Because modern education is not on par with what some believe it ought to be, I argue that American education is a triumph. Furthermore, to dismiss what it has become today is to belittle everyone from the early schoolmarms that were denied the most basic rights, to enslaved men and women who risked their lives to teach their children reading and counting using nothing but a Bible and dried soybeans.
Historically, an education was reserved for the elite and the wealthy, primarily because these groups were, and remain, threatened by the fact that a dissipation of knowledge to all men, meant they could no longer be THE men. Free education meant a share in power, and schools presented, and continue to present, an avenue for this vision to be made manifest.
Knowledge, while valuable, is not the only thing that schools provide, however. As divided as things appear sometimes, I worked in schools for 18 years and there was no better microcosm for shared virtue, compassion, empathy, and unified support. From Dreamer marches lead by students from every ethnicity to fundraisers that assisted families of students who passed away; I saw young men and women take so much more home from school than just their homework. What a marvel. How many other institutions outside of the human race itself present an opportunity for people of different colors, creeds, beliefs, and cultures to come together in the same space every day to learn alongside one another, to hear each other, and hopefully, come to understand each other?
Adams, Jefferson, and Hamilton knew that without an educated and engaged populous that we risked a stagnate democracy, unfair elections, and the potential of an outside takeover. And while some might argue that these things still pose a threat, it is the education, hard work, and dedication of those that continue to fight for a better democracy that give that fight a viable chance. It is an education that will fuel our workforce to heal our aging infrastructure. It is an education that is guiding Stacey Abrams to battle voter suppression. And it is an education that allowed Jennifer Rocha to be the first child in her family to graduate high school, go to college, and pursue a career beyond the orange fields in California where her parents continue to work hard, honorably.
Education was, is, and will always endure a fight. To this day there are populations that do not get the resources they need to pursue a fair education in the US, most notably Native peoples, emerging bilinguals, and schools in sparse rural areas. These are the schools and students we should continue to fight for, the ones for which our democracy was built. There is always more that we can do, and there will always be a call for reflection so that we can consider who we are teaching, what we are teaching, and how we are teaching. It may not happen by the next election cycle, or even the next decade…but, like “Hamilton,” I’m willing to wait for it.
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