Opinion
Education Opinion

Representing More Than 20 Minutes

By LeaderTalk Contributor — September 04, 2009 2 min read

I’m deeply saddened by the reactions of many regarding the forthcoming address by the President of the United States to the students of this great nation because it represents much more than those 20 minutes.

Let me be clear. I did not vote for President Obama. I do not support a number of his agenda items. I still do not believe his actions can match his rhetoric. However, I have hope. I have hope because I believe in the United States. I believe in what we can do as one nation. I believe that all citizens should listen deeply to elected officials, engage critically with their ideas, and work diligently to ensure a better tomorrow.

It is why I cannot understand how we as a society can claim to want 21st Century students that are critical and creative thinkers that value civic responsibility, intellectual diversity, and global awareness yet fight against an opportunity to engage those habits and skills as a learning community.

We claim that we want students to be engaged citizens. We claim we want interdisciplinary thinkers. We claim we want lifelong learners that challenge ideas, work collaboratively to solve problems, and communicate effectively.

YET, we don’t want our students exploring the idea of education simply because the President is the person starting the conversation and we fear the controversy.

Is this not an opportunity to engage in a unifying discussion? Is this not an opportunity for self and community reflection? Is this not an opportunity to think critically about a vital issue both locally and nationally? Is this not an opportunity to broaden awareness of issues for our students beyond their local community? Is this not an opportunity for respectfully debate, discourse, and growth?

We should be ashamed that our nation, our students, our schools have an opportunity to engage as a learning community but we would rather turn this into politics as usual. More importantly, we should be ashamed of what this moment represents: the great truth about the current US education system.

Given the reactions by communities and schools, it seems we still have too many across this country that do not want well-educated, 21st Century global citizens. Instead, we want sheltered individuals that only see what they are told to see, only hear what they are told to hear, and only do what they are told to do. We want factory-like schools producing narrow minded students built by prescribed curriculum centered on content, tests, textbooks, and singular sources of information. We want rigor in the form of more work and compliance. We want surface level thinkers that look at issues through a lens of fear and ignorance. We want a place for kids to be monitored.

That is why we are where we are with education. Our talks say one thing but our actions speak much louder about what we really want.

Today, I’m not proud to be an educator. I’m not proud to be a leader in education. Today, I’m deeply saddened for our students because they are the ones that suffer from our ignorance. They are the ones that pay for our inability to see the bigger, much more important picture.

Ryan Bretag
Coordinator of Instructional Technology
Glenbrook North High School
Blog: Metanoia

The opinions expressed in LeaderTalk are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.