Imagine first grade. Remember how awesome it was? Coloring letters of the alphabet, singing songs to learn how to add and subtract, memorizing poems about 1492 and the ocean blue. Good times. I can’t make assumptions about what happened to the rest of the kids in your first grade class, but most of the six-year-olds I sat with grew up and went on to the college of their choice. It was kind of inevitable where I came from; it was never a question of “if” I would go to college, only “where.”
Now imagine being in that class of 25 first graders in a low-income community. In this scenario, only 2 of those six-year-olds will graduate from college by the time they turn 24. That’s eight percent. What happens to the other 23 students? Where do they go? Could you have been one of those two who overcame the incredible odds to get to a school like F&M? Maybe. Maybe not.
I am going to shamelessly exploit my first opportunity to write a blog to advertise a new club on campus. SFER, or Students for Education Reform for those of you that are not yet familiar with this amazing acronym, is part of a national movement aiming to get college students to participate in the conversation about educational inequity. “Participating” is pretty vague, but that’s because there are so many ways to get involved. SFER F&M is a baby chapter; we’re still trying to establish ourselves on campus, so we’re open to all kinds of ideas.
We are not blind supporters of Teach For America or charter schools or teachers unions or standardized testing. In fact, we’re still trying to learn about all of those things so that we can educate the rest of the student body. We read Wendy Kopp and Diane Ravitch. We get depressed about the statistics, and then we try to figure out how to do something about it. We want to host discussions, debates, information sessions, and job fairs. We want to get this entire campus involved in closing the achievement gap.
If you are interested in education, politics, sciences, or, most importantly, children, I think you should consider reading a little bit more about this issue. Jonathan Kozol’s Savage Inequalities is, in my opinion, a great place to start. Not necessarily an uplifting read, but it will make you think about where you came from and how you got where you are today.
If you decide to join the movement, you will become part of a passionate, national, energized group of people who know that change can happen. I was just at a conference in Washington D.C. focused on getting more college students involved, and one speaker described the struggle against educational inequity as the “Civil Rights movement of our generation.” Yes, that is a big statement. Perhaps even a little too dramatic. But if it could even resemble something that wide reaching, that transformative, wouldn’t you want to be a part of it?