November 16, 2008

Obama on Education

Recently I read an article about President-Elect Obama's priorities, as he has stated them thus far. On his list, education and a reform of the system comes in at a heaping #5! (see article here: This, at first, made me feel good. I mean, I am certainly aware of the number of challenges that will be awaiting this President as he enters office. Obviously he is, too. There are the obvious issues that were at the forefront of every voter's mind: the economy and the war. But then I thought, wait! Isn't education ALWAYS at the front of everyone's mind. Sure, right now, in this very minute, the two biggest issues facing our country (that our country isn't perennially facing) are a recessed economy and a blundered war. This is true. However, these are, hypothetically, temporary problems. I feel guilty just writing that. It's true that people have given their lives in the war and many have lost everything they've worked so hard for in the stock market and I don't mean to disrespect either of these facts. However, the truth is that they are short term problems. The war can be ended almost immediately if the President made that choice. The recession is a product of quantifiable and qualified elements and is a part of market volatility and historical trends. Right?

But EDUCATION! Education is something that we cannot ignore any longer. We have continued to show greater and greater lack of interest in our system. We still have no incentives for teachers. We regurgitate the same standards for students. We have no true recognition of the home life or the neighborhood and the impact that either has on the education and development of our youth. We are a country that belabors the idea of hard work paying off in the end, but parents still complain when their kids get homework or disciplined. I do not subscribe to the Rich Dad, Poor Dad hypothesis of potential, but I do agree that regardless of whether a young person chooses to work harder in the classroom or outside of it, there is reward for hard work. Sadly, it just seems like we continue to ask less of our students both in and out of the classroom and expect equal results while developing countries the world over are surpassing our classroom performance because they emphasize the fact that education, no matter where you come from or where you want to be, is the best mode of public transport. If we don't focus on fixing our education system in this country- from kindergarten through university- we will have greater problems than a recession. We will have a decline, across the board, in the quality of life of every single person in America which will see no end for lifetimes to come.

November 1, 2008

College Applications: #1 MOST Stressful Time

I recently read in an article on the internet (forgive me for not remembering where, precisely, this article can be found) that the period of time when a student is applying to college is the #1 Most Stressful Time in that person's life, in general. I thought to myself how it sure doesn't seem that many of my students are losing their minds, going gray or really lacking sleep as they undergo this process. Why aren't they? Because I'm doing it all for them.

Let's be honest, is this really a time in our students' lives that should have them tearing their hair out? I do not condone the fear-factor playing a role in the college admissions process. Yes, if the only schools that a family wants their student to apply to are Stanford, MIT and those in the Ivy League, then it can be stressful. However, if the process is a well-informed and well-prepared time, there is absolutely NO reason why it should be a stress-inducing experience. On the contrary, one of my seniors recently said to me how much she has really enjoyed writing these creative essays and learning more about the schools to which she is applying. Granted, we've been working together on her applications and essays since July, but that's just necessary in this day and age. It's simply preparation and awareness. There is nothing as important as this process, so why wouldn't one be enthusiastic about investing such an amount of time in being thorough and well-researched?

The bottom line is this, there are plenty of events in a young person's life, in which they have to look forward to stress, confusion, fear and, certainly, rejection. Let this not be a time that strives to prepare them for this as if it's doing humanity some significant favor in preparing our youth to be numbed, stoic and learning to fear those events in life which pose both a challenge and the prospect of a significant process being undertaken.

And just as a side note, the #2 Most Stressful Time in a Person's Life . . . anybody want to take a guess? That's right, the wedding planning. For those of you who don't know, I will be a very fortunate man come January 3rd, 2009.