Media personality Glenn Beck spent the better part of an hour attacking a MSNBC commercial for its suggestion that as a society we are responsible, in a broad way, for parenting our community’s children via providing a top notch public education. However, since a Harvard University study revealed that America has to run to catch up to Latvia, Chile, and Brazil which are all making educational gains at three times the rate of US students, perhaps exploding all over the ad only provides smoke, when what we need are mirrors held up to society.
The complete quote in the MSNBC promo where anchor Melissa Harris-Perry talks about children's education is: “We have never invested as much in public education as we should have because we have always had kind of a private notion of children, your kid is yours and totally your responsibility. We haven’t had a very collective notion, of these are our children. So part of it is we have to kind of break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents, or kids belong to their families, and recognize that kids belong to whole communities. Once it’s everybody’s responsibility and not just the household’s, then we begin making better investments.”
As someone who volunteers twice weekly to help teach children, who are not my own, to play chess to improve critical thinking and standardized test scores at a community center and a public library without a cent of funding, I have a very different take on this commercial than a this “political shock jock.”
My opinion is tempered by Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance (PEPG) and its study revealing that the US ranks 25th out of 49 countries in student test-score gains over a 14-year period.
When Harris states that as Americans, “We have never invested as much in public education as we should have….” I think about that Harvard report and how the US isn’t just chasing the scholastic aptitude of industrialized countries like Latvia, Chile, and Brazil, but choking on the dust of Portugal, Hong Kong, Germany, Poland, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, Colombia, and Lithuania which are all improving at twice the rate, according to the PEPG study.
The study’s authors, Eric A. Hanushek of Stanford University, Paul E. Peterson of Harvard, and Ludger Woessmann of the University of Munich, examined fourth- and eighth-grade test score gains in math, reading, and science from 1995-2009 in 49 countries.
I realized that by watching the MSNBC commercial enough times to get the transcription right (four), anyone who just glossed over it picking out key words could take it amiss, but only if they were looking for trouble. Whenever I was ready to have a meltdown over something someone said that offended me, my maternal grandmother would say, “If you go looking for trouble you’re sure to find it everywhere you look.”
Maybe the word “collective” is too retro for some hosts who can only see it in the narrow contexts of the Cold War or a George Orwellian 1984 kind of scenario?
I prefer to see the word used in a more positive and respectful tone toward our nation in sentences like, “Let’s use our collective wisdom to solve America’s problems.”
To me that commercial says the American people as parents have always been proud, independent, and perhaps more financially able to provide a top-notch education and home support for their children.
However, the ad also reminds me that we must move with the times and realize that not all of us can now afford to be at home lavishing attention and education on our kids as the economy has shrunk our schedules and budgets.
As parents work multiple jobs, as I do, and teachers struggle to make due with shrinking budgets our society’s earlier choices to place the heavier burden and responsibility on the individual parent is having a negative impact on our society.
America wants to be the best at science, technology, engineering, math (the STEM disciplines), but we fall far short in what we have to offer the global market. I see America losing its edge in business and the global economy because we are stuck in the middle of the achievement gap.
When we look at our kids getting a good education because a major network decided to champion kicking it up a few notches to help our kids be competitive in the job market some day, we aren’t looking at a conspiracy, but a blessing.
Taking a collective approach to education should not be demonized. As Matthew 25:40 in the American King James Version of the Bible said, “And the King shall answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me.”
Perhaps we could also view that in the newer translation which changes the word “to” to “for.”
I like the notion that we are being reminded that in society and for our children, “'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.' “