To the Editor:
Now that the 2016 presidential-primary election season has arrived, I offer a homework assignment for our candidates.
Many questions will be raised in the coming months. However, in my view, there is one question that supersedes all others because it zeroes in on the heart, values, priorities, and vision that those vying for America’s top political office should have.
My question to each of the presidential candidates is simply this: How are America’s children doing?
If you are going to serve as the next president of the United States, you need to get to know America’s children. I challenge each of you to veer off the campaign trail from time to time and leave the cameras behind. Seek out the growing number of children living in poverty, which many people in the wealthiest nation in the world are too embarrassed to admit exist. Talk to children who live in foster care, on the streets, or in homeless shelters.
Talk to children who come from homes where food is scarce. Talk to children who take care of siblings because the adults in their homes are too strung out on drugs to be responsible. Ask all of these children about their hopes for the future. More important, ask whether or not they believe their dreams are achievable. As you listen to their voices, look into their eyes. In that moment, you will see what our nation will look like 20 years from now.
When your homework is complete, answer that single question in front of the cameras. Sharing a thoughtful response and an actionable plan for change will give us insight into your vision for a stronger America.
As for the “grade” on your completed assignment, that will be delivered on Nov. 8.
The writer is a retired public school educator and superintendent.
A version of this article appeared in the February 10, 2016 edition of Education Week as Calling All Presidential Hopefuls: How Are U.S. Children Doing?