If you follow the news you read about the problems facing education every day: schools and classes have become overcrowded. A college education’s price
tag, when you add up tuition hikes, textbook costs, and other fees, has become prohibitively expensive for many. Schools face budget cuts and loss of funding. This country’s students are in the midst of a STEM education crisis. Teachers, professors, and faculty members all over are being laid off or can’t find jobs. And to top it all off, even edtech companies claiming to solve the problem have become part of it, as some argue that we find ourselves in the middle of another tech bubble, but this time in education. Some believe that the adoption of technology in schools has become less about serving students, and more about turning those adoptions into cash in the growing edtech industry.
As a former educator and now education writer, I’m inundated with this stuff every day. Like I said — easy to become discouraged.
But tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and tomorrow afternoon before my family’s dinner, once the turkey has been cooked and stuffed and deep-fried (yes, my dad deep-fat-fries a turkey each year and wears a “Real Men Fry Turkeys” apron while he does so) and the potatoes mashed and the pumpkin and apple pies baked, we’ll go around the table and each person will say what they’re thankful for this year. It may sound trite, but I actually like the practice of pausing to reflect on the changes each year brings. Despite life’s hassles, anxieties, and inconveniences, when I focus on the good rather than the bad, I always find dozens of reasons to feel grateful. I think most of us, when we pause to reflect, could say
So today I’ll try that exercise in education. It’s easy to focus on the long road ahead of us, to throw our hands in the air and declare the institution too broken to fix. But for today, I’ll try something different.
Today I’m grateful that professors such as Sebastian Thrun have seen the problem of overcrowding in colleges and the lack of access to quality education around the world, and thus have created massively open online courses that anyone with internet access can take. As a result, students who will never set foot in a university classroom are exposed to the world’s top professors and courses. Sure, these MOOCs are still in their experimental stages, but the intentions are good.
I’m thankful that companies like 2U are providing affordable online college courses among top schools that give students credit toward graduation. I’m grateful for companies like Flatworld and Boundless, who are committed to providing high-quality digital textbooks to students for free, which in a small way relieves some of the burden of the cost of higher education.
I’m grateful for the superintendents and administrators who are working double-super-overtime and trying to make sure their district gets every penny they need so that their teachers are paid and their students have resources necessary to learn. I’m grateful for the policy makers and voters who are committed to putting funds back into education.
I’m grateful for the leaders, administrators, educators, and investors who are committed to making sure students are exposed to STEM education, and those who haven’t forgotten that STEAM education is just as important.
Today I’ll give thanks for all the teachers in this country who are underpaid and overworked but who show up each day because they know the importance of giving every child a quality education. I’m thankful for the teachers who are always trying new tactics and expanding their own personal learning networks in order to teach students more effectively. I’m thankful for their endless energy, creativity, and commitment towards their students.
Now don’t get me wrong — this post isn’t meant to be about patting ourselves on the back for a job well done, because there’s still so much work to do. Education has a long way to go, and I won’t be satisfied until every child on this entire planet has access to a quality education, because — well, I’ll defer to Nelson Mandela to express my sentiments, who says it better than I ever could:
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
I believe this wholeheartedly, and on Friday, we’ll continue the fight. But today, and on Thanksgiving, I’ll be giving thanks for the small steps we’ve made toward progress in education, and grateful that there are so many people — teachers, administrators, students, policy makers, entrepreneurs, lifelong learners, and you, readers — who are fighting for education, too.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.