If you pay close attention to the print and news media, you would think that because of dearth and paucity, our schools are failing dreadfully. In fact, according to many reputable sources, we are graduating young adults who can barely tie their own shoes. They can't read. They can't write. They can't think and they will never survive in this dog eat dog world. I beg to differ.
America's young people were put to a far more stringent test than most teachers could ever create. Whether we supported it or not, agreed with our president or strongly disagreed with him, the United States Armed Forces are enduring a high stakes test that puts the No Child Left Behind assessments and the SAT to shame. With the average age of combat units at just 19 years old, young men and women, who probably were not the top students in their classes, and probably did not attend our best universities, or any university, traveled to an extremely dangerous part of the world on a very significant mission. In their exceptional execution of their mission, they endure dramatic challenges as they demonstrate many of the educational standards defined by the state as Core Content Curriculum Skills or Workplace Readiness Standards by which we are supposed to measure student achievement:
They used technology, information and other tools.
They used critical thinking, decision-making, and problem-solving skills.
They demonstrated self-management skills.
They applied safety principles.
They acquired a geographical understanding of the relationship between language and culture.
They acquired historical understanding of economic forces, ideas, and institutions throughout the history of New Jersey, The United States, and the World.
And most importantly, this so-called struggling generation of children, who supposedly cannot read or write on grade level, effectively communicated a message so very loud and clear that it resonated throughout the world, for all to hear, in every language in the universe: America stands for freedom and we can accomplish anything!
Education has always been the cornerstone of opportunity in our country. My brothers and sisters and I grew up on welfare, with a mentally ill mother and an absentee father. When we were teens and my mother was committed again and again to mental institutions, we had to steal food, clothing and toiletries to survive. Yet, today, we have all broken the cycle of poverty and abuse for ourselves and our children. How? We had exceptional teachers. They didn't just dispense facts. Instead, they provided opportunities for us to confirm our self worth. Money is not what is needed to improve education. Making it possible for caring, competent teachers to make a meaningful connection with EVERY child in the classroom makes all the difference. A high school teacher's few positive comments scribbled in my weekly journal were enough to sustain me for a week. Soon, one week led to another and before I knew it, I was graduating from college. This magical connection in the classroom can never be measured by a standardized test.
Today's graduates will accomplish even more. For several weeks, our televisions have been alive with bright young faces of American men and women of every color and nationality, who personally hand delivered--not a Dominos pizza, not a gang bustin rapper's rhyme, not any of the stereotypical things attributed to their generation. No, instead they deliver freedom, big time, to people who are being oppressed. Think about it. They delivered freedom --life itself to suffering people.
The toppling of a statue once, that we all witnessed, should signify the toppling of the false notion that America's youth are failing. They have and will continue to succeed far beyond our wildest dreams and imagination. I challenge America's youth to categorically dismiss the nonsense reports that you are not up to standards and show the world. Stand and deliver your own special brand of freedom--however you wish to define it.
My prayer is that young Americans never again have to reach for a gun, or drive a tank, or fly a fighter jet to deliver this freedom. But, if they are challenged, they will answer their challenges in an exceptional way as all American generations have done before them.
Meanwhile, if television airways were filled each night with the daily accomplishments of our youth in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, our national pride would explode. Unfortunately, what we do have in our media is a dearth of images portraying the good in America and a severe paucity of what is real on our reality television.