Joe Calder: A Youth-Led Movement
American students are tired of waiting for education reform. With no foreseeable action coming from Washington, on Monday, April 23, 2012, the political action committee Six PAC had its formal Internet debut at SixPAC.org. While few politicians dare disagree that the U.S. education system is broken, even fewer have put forth serious proposals to rewrite the policy that governs our country’s education system. Not only does Six PAC present realistic and pragmatic reforms, but it also brings a new voice to the table: the voice of the students themselves. Six PAC’s leaders are not Washington insiders, Congressional aides, lobbyists or businessmen with ulterior motives — they are students, the very people who are directly impacted by education reform. Its launch has created a new conversation about meaningful education reform in our country.
Six PAC is the brainchild of six high school debaters who, after years of research and deliberating about social issues, felt compelled to fix one of the most important issues in America today. Six PAC believes that no panacea exists for education reform. They cite today’s tenure laws, our current system of state standards, low teacher pay, lack of vocational programs and below-average teacher quality as the problems that create systemic failure in public education. Details about their positions can be found in Six PAC’s policy briefs or on their website.
Six PAC seeks to be an outlet for students to use their voice and to provide a true “field perspective” to what education studies have been saying for years. Six PAC is now working with individuals at a multitude of top universities around the country to establish Six PAC chapters. Chapters have three main goals: to educate the community, partner with local schools to set up mentorship programs, and fundraise. Six PAC’s current list of prospective chapters includes high schools and universities located from coast to coast. The implicit message they carry transcends education reform — it suggests that student-led reform is entirely possible. The idea itself is enough to revolutionize American education policy for years to come.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development stated in their 2010 report, “The High Cost of Low Educational Performance,” that if the United States were to increase average scores on the Programme for International Student Assessment exams by 25 points, the U.S. could experience 40 trillion dollars of GDP expansion over the lifetime of the 2010 generation. We’re not dealing with nickels and dimes here; we’re talking about serious economic benefits to the tune of 500 billion dollars a year on average. For years, politicians have skirted around serious education reform in the United States. Faults in teacher tenure and school administration, systemic problems, and a political refusal to have the adult conversation have held our children and our economy hostage for too long.
Students in American public schools are fed up: They are fed up because the education that has been offered to them is second rate, fed up because they know that they will be far behind their foreign counterparts in the global market, and fed up because education reform is barely on the government’s radar. We shouldn’t be fighting to get education reform on the government’s checklist — we should be fighting to be the best-educated nation in the world.
But there are issues that transcend global rankings. Even if the United States isn’t at the top of the world, it’s imperative to have an education system that you feel confident about sending your children to. As stated on the Six PAC website: “Education is the backbone of society. An effective education system has the capacity to deliver a new generation of thinkers, innovators, and leaders — and can do so without bankrupting a nation.”
It is time for education reform to become our nation’s top priority.
For more information, visit Six PAC’s website.