My mother grew up in a working class family in Staten Island, New York. Her father was a plumber, and her mother worked security for the local elementary school. All her parents wanted was for her to go to secretarial school, but her teachers pushed her to dream bigger, so my mother paid her way through Brooklyn College. She became a special education teacher, in the hopes of giving all children the opportunity to pursue their dreams.
She also gave that dream to me. I was provided with all the tools that I needed to be successful in life, but there are still millions of children in the world that do not have my opportunities. This is why I work in education: it is the great equalizer, allowing every child in the United States to live the American dream.
Nowadays, that dream is not easy to achieve. The American education system is broken, and hard work does not always lead to a story of success. It is an undeniable fact that it must be fixed, but how to go about fixing it has become a tremendous source of controversy. The fact is, America is extremely diverse; too diverse for a one-size-fits-all solution.
So, what is to be done? We need focused, community based solutions, and we need reformers that are aware of the needs of their communities. And who are these reformers? The solution is obvious, yet often overlooked. The students themselves are the reformers we need. Arne Duncan, the United States Secretary of Education, accurately explained the necessity of student engagement, stating that “students know what’s working and not working in schools before anyone else”. In addition, the Forum for Youth Investment recently published a study, entitled “What Works”, which identified student involvement as the key to fixing our education system.
I advocate for student voice because every American child deserves the opportunity to achieve the American Dream. Student voice is a simple solution that will improve our schools. It unites students, educators, administrators and parents from diverse economic, partisan, and social situations alleviates many of the issues in education.If it is not brought to the forefront of the education debate, I fear for the future of every American child and our country as a whole.