Why Public Education Matters


Public education is the new endangered species of America. The reasons are many: there is the myth of failing public education, the teacher blame game review, the over-testing Common Core regime, and the romance some have with the “take public money but privately run run run” charter/voucher schools.


What struck home (literally) for me about this charter school debate was the fact that low-income, and families with limited English don’t apply for charter schools. Most likely, the poor are dealing with the stresses of paying the bills and providing food and shelter, and those with low English ability simply don’t understand what’s available to them.

I came from such a family. My mother immigrated to these United States from Thailand in the early 70s (legally, thank you), and even though she took English courses, her English has plateaued and is not very good. When I was in grade school, I hated when teachers told me to ask my parents for homework help. My father died unexpectedly when I was 6, and my mother would often ask ME to interpret bank statements and other letters that were way over my head.

Later, when I applied for financial aid for college, I learned how to do it all on my own. I went to the public library and borrowed a book. I worked at Little Caesars Pizza while attending community college. And even though we had a friend help my mom fill out her jury duty form, she was still called in, and it wasn’t until she addressed the judge as “your highness” that she was finally excused.

I love my mom. I wish she had received more education than the equivalent of a 5th grade in rural Thailand.  She values education greatly and drove my younger brother and I crazy over telling us how much it was important. But she was right. (There I said it, mom!)

Despite how much money families have, despite their connections or lack thereof, despite any obstacles, all children deserve to have a solid education. I bristle upon bristle when people act like the educating of their child has greater value than any other kid. Okay, I kind of get the competitive aspect of my child is better than yours at football, art, academics, whatever, but seriously, folks? Seriously?!

Isn’t an educated society preferable to an educated few??? Do we really need or want our educational system to be built on competitiveness? Do we want losers and winners? This isn’t about all of us skipping to ring-around-the-rosy, this is about cultivating a community of critical thinkers to help foster greater understanding and compassion for each another so we can thrive.

We are faced with incredible problems that need all of us to grab a mental shovel and dig in to – I believe we all carry unique and special gifts that we can bring to our societies. I don’t want to live in a world where substandard education is the norm for the greater population because we thought competitive learning was a great idea.

Why do we have to race to the top? Because I can tell you already, children are going to be left behind. You might not care because it’s not your child, but I assure you, one day you will.

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