An Educational Wish List for President-Elect Obama

barack obamaDear Mr. Obama (soon to be Mr. President),

I am a former college professor and a writer who specializes in educational topics.  As such, and as the mother of a young child, I have some serious concerns about education in the United States.  I know you do too, so I thought I would write you a wish list of the changes I hope you will help bring about.  Yes, I know the economy is in the toilet and that you might not be able to grant me all of these wishes right now, but since you are putting together a substantial package to stimulate the economy, I hope you will be keeping education in mind.  After all, if we don’t educate our children well, how will we compete in the global economy?

First, I hope you will take some serious action to make college more affordable to Americans.  In the past 25 years, college expenses have increased at three times the rate of family income, and at the rate we’re going, it’s quite plausible that in the next few decades, a college education will become unaffordable for most Americans.  I know you agree with me that this is unacceptable in America.  Students need more access to financial aid, and not just student loans, since it’s not fair for students to start their careers buried in debt, and state schools need better funding so they don’t need to rely so much on tuition.

Another serious concern of mine is No Child Left Behind, which I know you agree needs some serious reform.  The bottom line is that students are learning how to take tests, and not how to learn.  I have a special request: please reform this legislation by 2010, when my daughter starts kindergarten.  We can’t afford to send her to the kind of school where you are sending Malia and Sasha, so we’re sure hoping that the public schools will serve our child well.

While you’re at it, could you please see if you could do something about writing skills?  Americans do not know how to write.  Trust me, you would be shocked to see what some students at the college level are turning in as their best work.  Writing is an absolutely essential skill in today’s world. Oh, and I don’t know about you, but I’m embarrassed about Americans’ lack of knowledge about civics.  Could you please put in a word for better social studies education?

In addition, as part of your economic growth plans, why not put some money into developing a world-class technical education program in America that trains students for careers in our global, technologically advanced environment?  A four-year college degree is not for everyone, but many students feel they have no other option if they want to make a good living.  An outstanding technical education system would give students more options.

Oh, and of course, I have to mention the long standing problem of local school funding that is based on property taxes.  It’s just not fair that kids who grow up in poorer districts get a lousy education and kids in wealthy districts get a good one.  If we really want to see “no child left behind,” we need to make sure all of our public schools provide students with an equally outstanding education.

I also hope you will consider doing something about advertising in the public schools.  It’s become commonplace for schools to be inundated with ads and sponsorships from corporations.  Can’t we do better than selling our children’s eyeballs to advertisers?  If school districts had more funding, this wouldn’t be an issue.

Mr. Obama, I know this is quite a bit to ask of you, especially at this difficult time in history, and I know these changes won’t all be happening in the near future.  However, I am very excited that you will be taking office soon and optimistic that you will do everything in your power to improve education in America.  Thank you, and good luck running the country!

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