Prior to this pandemic there were a lot of conversations about the New York City Public School system. A month or so ago I was interviewed by Politico to provide my perspective on whether or not we should do away with the specialized high school exams. My opinion was that we shouldn’t.
While we want to ensure that everyone has equal opportunity, is dumbing it down the way to go? I think a better option is to provide additional funding and resources to those that need them so they can compete. When I say resources I am not just talking about books and test prep. We also need resources for parents. There are some parents that need resources to help them improve on their parenting skills. I had to take a permit test, a 3 hour class and a driver’s exam to drive a car but when I had my son I walked out of the hospital without any instructions. We rely on families to teach each generation how to be better but if the previous generation was never able to excel how can they teach that lesson to the next?
If we want to have a better educated society we have to take a holistic approach. Children come as blank slates. What they learn comes from a combination of their parents, their faith community and in large part, through their education. They are molded into the individuals that we make them. If you want your kid to love music, expose them to a variety of it. If you want your child to be an avid reader, read to them early on. I read to my son since the time he was in my womb. To this day, he is an avid reader.
If we want more out of kids, we can’t lower our expectations or lower the bar. Life doesn’t work like that. When these children apply for college, will the colleges now say they don’t have to take an exam? Are we going to say there are no more exams for New York City and New York State civil servant positions? Are their employers going to give them a break on their jobs if they don’t have critical thinking? I can guarantee the answers to those questions are no. I believe that is the right answer. We need to ensure that we have raised a generation of young adults who are self-sufficient and have the tools they need to be successful. That starts with a proper education.
Having said that, what grade are we giving ourselves as it relates to education? Also, in this COVID-19 era how will we reimagine schools and the education system so that kids have all the resources they need, enjoy learning and don’t see it as a chore. How will we ensure that they are given access to things that interest them and that they grow up to be the productive adults, living purposeful lives that all parents pray for?
As the threat of coronavirus diminishes now is the optimal time to talk about that and focus on an education system reimagined. It is one of the primary areas that will be critical for us to address post coronavirus and with the new social distancing guidelines.
How can we improve our city’s school education system and ensure that our children are safe at school? For starters, we need:
- More financial investment in education and less of an investment in incarceration. There is something wrong when we spend $337,000 a year to incarcerate someone but our children don’t have technology or internet service to use at home. Let’s invest in building more day care centers, athletic centers, music, art and STEM centers. Let’s invest in more college prep and more trade schools.
- To reduce class sizes to a maximum of 20 students per class. This can be done by hiring more teachers and/or building more schools.
- To go to trimesters and have classes that are both in person and remote.
- Less focus on information that kids can Google and retain and more focus on character building, confidence building and what they have an interest in doing when they grow up. Let’s focus on finding out what they are excited about and build on that excitement.
- The opportunity for electives starting at junior high.
- The curriculum to be more in line with how the world operates today and will operate tomorrow.
- To provide morning and afternoon shifts for parents who want that option.
- And last, but certainly not least, we need to make college education free. No child should have to go into debt for a decent education. Young adults have loans upwards of $200K at 22 years old. We are setting them up for failure and financial ruin.
If we learned anything from this pandemic it’s that the system is broken and as it turns out, when left to ourselves, we can be trusted to do the right thing. That means that a city reimagined can be a city where everyone doesn’t have to go to school at the same time. It can be a city where everyone doesn’t go to work at the same time, or where we work from home and still things get done. I think through this pandemic we all realize that we want purpose. We realize how valuable our teachers and students are and that it is time for a better education for the next generation. I am ready to reimagine school. Are you? Let’s do it together!