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A Christmas Wish List for Education Reform

by Justin Marquis Ph.D.

On the eve of the big day I have chosen to forego the usual channels normally considered when thinking about or advocating for educational reform in favor of a less-conventional avenue – I’m writing a letter to ask Santa to bring massive change to our most important social institution this holiday season. While it may seem defeatist to ask a mythical character for education reform help, it is really an optimistic look at some of the very real things that could be provided for or done to education that would make a major difference for every American student.

December 24, 2012
Mr. Kris Kringle
1 North Pole Way
Christmastown, North Pole

Dear Santa,
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter during this extremely busy time of year. I take great hope from the fact that you are reading it at all when you must be absolutely slammed with requests for toys from all over the world. I know the scope of the things that I am asking for may make me seem greedy, but they are not for me at all. I think my children and (someday) grandchildren would benefit from them, but so would every other school age child and our society as a whole. If you have the resources, it would be great if you could bring these things to children and their schools all over the world (at least in the places you serve). So, with that disclaimer, I humbly ask for the following things to help education become the most useful, dynamic, and relevant service for the greatest number of people.

  1. Money! While I know you don’t generally deal in currency, perhaps you could contact the Ghost of Christmas-Yet-to-Come and ask it to hit up some of our Scroogy billionaires for enormous endowments for our public schools and universities. With a fat bankroll schools could provide innovative curriculum and hi-tech tools that would ensure that every student is engaged and gains the 21st Century skills they need to be successful.
     
  2. A celebrity spokesperson! The NRA has celebrity spokespeople. So do AARP, the NCAA, MOOCs, Save the Children, and almost anything else you can imagine. But not education! This is something that our grand old institution could use at every level to raise public awareness, lobby for more funding, inspire children to learn, and provide some backing for overworked and under-appreciated teachers. I’m thinking someone like Morgan Freedman (who could say no to God?), Aretha, or Jody Foster would be great. But please, not Jack Black, Will Ferrell, or that strange British guy who played Arthur in the remake! We need someone serious with some real klout and universal appeal.
     
  3. R-E-S-P-E-C-T! Aretha Franklin should be the unofficial spokesperson for this particular Christmas wish. Our current educational problems are rooted in the lack of respect given to both teachers and the institution as a whole. Education is our most important social institution, and the one that holds the greatest hope for a long and productive society. Making it a priority in all of our lives and the object of our undying affection and support will go a long way towards alleviating the problems that currently plague it – from parental indifference, to political posturing, crumbling infrastructure, and outdated resources.  Please bring education some R-E-S-P-E-C-T this holiday season.
     
  4. Universal Peace or at least universal high-speed connectivity. I know it is silly to ask for world peace even though that would be one thing that would immediately make all education, in every country, better. But since you don’t even exist for most cultures on the planet, that’s just not a reasonable request. In lieu of world peace, I think universal high-speed Internet connectivity would be the next best thing you could bring. Classrooms are, by definition small, but providing every one of them with Internet access makes them infinitely bigger. In addition, universal access for all American citizens should be a right (not an "entitlement") given the fact that you can no longer do simple things like change your mailing address without the Web. Not only is the Internet a great equalizer, it is essential to a connected future and the democratic process.
     
  5. Cool toys! No Christmas wish list is complete without a request for the latest hi-tech toys and gadgets. The perfect place to start would be with one tablet or inexpensive laptop for every school-aged child. If we expect our next generation to be competitive in a globally connected, hi-tech economy, they need to have constant exposure to the latest technologies and learn how to use them in powerful and authentic ways on a daily basis. That model simply can’t happen with computer labs and COWs (computers on wheels). The only way to help our youth gain the 21st century skills and knowledge they need to be successful is to give them ownership of the technology. While you are at it, please bring one to every university student as well. The University of Kentucky did that for some of their incoming freshmen, and the results have been great.
     

I know all of this is a lot to ask for from one legendary figure, but, if you do exist, and can do all the things that you are believed to do, you can do this. If not you, what other hope do we have? We certainly can’t count on politicians or big business to bring our children these educational essentials. And might I add that American students in general have been really, really good this year.

Sincerely,
Justin W. Marquis
Educator and concerned parent.

 

Image courtesy of audfriday13 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net