This I Believe

Julia - Arlington, Virginia
Entered on October 23, 2006

This I Believe

I believe that every student has the right to succeed. Every child is different and we must create an education system that gives children in the United States the ability to succeed regardless of their race, background, or learning style. With the right tools and the right resources we can make underperforming students the top performers of the next generation. Every time I hear about an African American child in the District of Columbia who cannot read because they have grown up in a education system that has failed them and left them unprepared for the future or a child with ADD whose teachers are too busy with an overflowing classroom to give them the attention that they need I worry that our educational system will continue to fail our children unless we take dramatic steps as a country to improve the education of every child and to make education a national priority. I am not talking about creating a dysfunctional system such as “No Child Left Behind” that does not create any real results other than taking teachers away from imaginative lesson plans and forcing them to teach to a test. Instead, I am talking about making education a national priority and creating schools that are well funded and that have enough teachers and class sizes that are small enough to accommodate the unique needs and learning styles of each individual student. Not all students do well in reading, or math, or on standardized testing. Some students do well learning ideas visually or through dance, and our methods of teaching should be able to support those differences and embrace them to create a stronger system for all students. I know from personal experience that our academic system does not allow for very much flexibility and that it is easy to fall through the cracks. Because I was a girl and because I was not hyperactive my ADD went undiagnosed until college. Because I was quiet and I didn’t create too much trouble my teachers didn’t notice that I couldn’t see anything on the blackboard for almost 2 years in elementary school. Perhaps with smaller class sizes and more teacher attention, those issues could have been addressed much earlier. To this day I have extreme difficulty writing papers due to my inability to concentrate and I am still stuck in an educational system that requires written works in order to succeed. I credit the few teachers in college who allowed me to present presentations instead of papers with ultimately helping me to graduate. I was lucky that I went to comparatively good schools my entire life; in fact many of them are the highest ranked schools in the country. If I almost fell through the cracks in a “good” school system, what is happening to the millions of children stuck in substandard and failing schools? The students in the United States will continue to fall behind other industrialized countries and continue to fail our kids unless we make a unified national decision to make education a top priority now and for generations to come.