“Let us in education dream of an aristocracy of achievement arising out of a democracy of opportunity.” — Thomas Jefferson
In the words of poet William Butler Yeats, "Education should not be the filling of a pail; it should be the lighting of a fire."
Education is more than a pathway to a better job; it is a gateway to a more empowered life. Good universal education is essential to a democracy because it gives the tools to all citizens to think, and to act, with the power that is necessary for self-governance.
Without trained minds, we are less prepared for engaged citizenship. A more conscious sense of citizenship is imperative if we’re to right the ship of our democracy. Democracy bestows more than rights; it bestows responsibilities as well: the responsibility to understand what is happening to our country, to make carefully considered decisions regarding who we elect to represent us. Education gives us a greater ability to direct our own lives, and also to help direct the fate of our nation.
Yet, millions of our children are just that: locked out. And the more locked out they are, the greater the chance that someday they will be locked up. Under-education is a form of oppression. The United States is the only country that funds our public education through property taxes, ensuring that children from poorer neighborhoods receive a poorer education, thus deepening the roots of wealth inequality.
Millions of American children go each day to schools that do not have functioning toilets, and which lack the minimum school supplies necessary to teach a child to read. A child who cannot read by the age of eight is less likely to graduate from high school, and more likely to one day be incarcerated. This is more than an “educational issue.” It is a humanitarian crisis. In the richest country in the world.
Children are full citizens of the United States. Yet because they do not vote, they lack advocacy in the halls of our government. And because they do not work, they lack financial leverage – an even greater disadvantage in today’s political establishment. Our economic system is a holdover from a time when women had very little say, and children were basically considered “women’s work.”
Even today, the children of America are treated more like the property of adults than as fully empowered United States citizens.
Millions of American children live with chronic emotional trauma, unable to achieve the highest possibilities of education, even when it is offered to them. That is why trauma-informed education and social wrap-around services are necessary, in addition to what we have normally associated with the most important aspects of a child’s education. Education in America should expand not only a student's intellectual horizons but also her cultural, emotional, psychological and spiritual ones. It is impossible to separate issues of economic despair from issues of domestic violence, from issues of childhood trauma, from issues of lower educational achievement. And America needs a president who understands that.
Universal quality education for all Americans, starting in pre-school and extending through college or technical school, should be available to all our citizens, in every neighborhood in America. Every child should have access to the most advanced arts education and the most incredible cultural opportunities, as well as the best intellectual preparedness of any nation in the world.
Why? Because America should belong to its people.
Our government’s servitude to short term profit maximization for multi-national corporations has squeezed the majority of resources of our public treasury into the hands of a very few, creating untold suffering among millions of Americans, particularly our children. Such is the opposite of effective long term economic planning. Our future gold, our future energy, our future success, lives in the kindergartens of America. The way to provide vibrancy in our country tomorrow – social, economic and political - is to honor our children today.
The high cost of higher education is putting college out of the reach for many students unless their parents are wealthy. The average graduate leaves school nearly $30,000 in debt, with student loans now totaling over $1.5 trillion. This creates a drag on our economy, as young graduates have to spend their money repaying loans instead of buying goods and creating businesses. How many American youths would love nothing more than to have $2,500 in discretionary spending that they could use to fund their own entrepreneurial enterprises? Instead of supporting them in doing that, we are raising a generation of indentured servants who will spend decades - if not a lifetime – paying off banks.
The way to create a successful economy is by unleashing the spirit of the American people, starting with those fresh out of school.
At the end of WW2, the GI Bill helped build America’s great middle class – the same middle class that has been decimated by corporate-driven economics over the last forty years. A GI Bill level of investment in educating America’s youth would help bring the Middle Class back.
Every child in America – and the parents who kiss them good-bye each morning -- lives with the fear, however deeply tucked into the recesses of his or her mind, that this might be a day when someone starts shooting a gun at school.
Once again, corporate short term profit maximization– in this case, of gun manufacturers – is placed before the health and well-being even of our most precious citizens, and this underlying amorality would be vigorously challenged by my administration.