Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Protect the Vulnerable and Create Opportunity

By Helen Conway

Last Tuesday, I had the pleasure of attending a talk with Dick Durbin, a Senior US Senator and Assistant Majority Leader. Durbin is a major proponent of the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act would allow undocumented immigrant students who came into the country as minors to earn legal status by attending college or enlisting in the military.

Durbin’s talk focused more on the contested issue of immigration and not on education. However, Durbin said one thing in support of the DREAM Act that stood out to me: “Protect the vulnerable and create opportunity.”

Since arriving at Georgetown, I’ve thought a lot about opportunity. I graduated from a failing public high school. An impoverished community run by a highly politicized and inefficient school board made for lack of resources, lack of community involvement and a lack of vision. 

Clearly, my high school experience was a lot different than that of many of my peers. Upon hearing of my friend’s experiences at private schools or superior public schools, I find myself feeling envious. I value my high school experience but I would have loved the opportunity to attend one of those schools and receive that quality of education. I believe it is the right of every student in America to receive a quality, well-funded education. Not every student should have to attend an elite private school or live in an affluent community for this to be possible.

Education in its current state is a hindrance to the future of our country. Unless bipartisan systematic reform takes place, it will continue on this path. Education creates opportunity however the current educational system is denying thousands upon thousands of deserving students the right to seek such opportunity. Coming from a failing school district, as well as now serving as a literacy tutor in Ward 7, I can speak to this from personal experience.

What can be done to solve such a crisis? I haven’t figured that out yet; that’s why I’m at Georgetown. However, when I become frustrated and despondent, I remember a quote from my favorite TV show – The West Wing. “Education is the silver bullet. Education is everything. We don't need little changes, we need gigantic, monumental changes. Schools should be palaces. The competition for the best teachers should be fierce. They should be making six-figure salaries. Schools should be incredibly expensive for government and absolutely free of charge to its citizens, just like national defense. That's my position. I just haven't figured out how to do it yet.” You’re so right, Sam Seaborn.

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