Education responsibility

Friday, November 19, 2010

The newly released documentary "Waiting for Superman" follows the lives of five young people who care about their education and want to have the opportunity to attend high quality, charter schools.

The private screening of the film last week at the Frontenac Plaza Cinema in St. Louis was convened by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and featured a four-member panel to discuss education. More than 100 business leaders, policymakers, educators and parents attended. The film, directed and co-written by Davis Guggenheim, claims that children are failing because of bad schools, teachers and teachers' unions.

Personally, I grow weary of the symptomatic focus presented by politicians, media and elite "experts." I'm acutely aware of the educator's perspective. I want to know what the students think. After all, it is their future.

When asked, "Why are schools having trouble?" my students answered:

* Teachers spend too much time on "bad" students and not enough on those who try hard.

* The students who do wrong don't get punished.

* If the student doesn't want to learn, he won't. If he wants to learn, he will.

* Students aren't interested in school.

* Children need to find their own way of learning.

Irene Ayieko, from Kenya, recently visited my students. She lost two family members to AIDS. Her father left when she was 7 years old. She went to a school with a dirt floor. When asked, "What do the children in Kenya have that children in the United States lack?" she sweetly answered, "Faith. We don't have the material stuff, but there's that joy. There is the joy of God. Joy, that keeps you going." Today, Ms. Ayieko is a student at Southeast Missouri State University and studying to become a nurse. She credits God for giving her a dream and then opening the way for her to achieve it.

I encourage everyone to see "Waiting for Superman." But as you watch, consider great people like Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington Carver, Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein. All of these men had limited opportunities to attend school or had negative experiences with school, but each went on to affect the world in amazingly powerful and positive ways. How would their lives have been different if they had accepted the view that "if you don't get into this great school, you have no chance for success"?

It is time for the people of our nation, young and old, to take personal responsibility and return to an ethic of accomplishment based on hard work.

As Dr. Ben Carson says, "Life is a one-to-one ratio. What you put in, you will get out."

Russell Grammer is the director of Prodigy Leadership Academy, a private school in Cape Girardeau.

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