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Jenifer Fox Headshot

Does Education Matter?

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I almost missed in the news that Ted Sizer, one of America's most influential progressive educators, former Dean of the Harvard Graduate School Education and the founder of the Coalition of Essential Schools, died. I almost missed this important news because to most people in this country, neither his critically important work nor his death is news.

Education, to most Americans, is not the stuff of nightly news. Or, perhaps, it isn't news because the media is unsure of the critical importance of education reporting. Look around -- you won't see education on the front page. To get to the education section on the New York Times online, you must scroll to the very bottom of the page. The only thing below the education section is real estate. The headlines in the education section are not usually very compelling: "College Costs Keep Rising, Report Says." Not sure anyone actually needs to click through to the article with that headline.

Recently, I was selecting categories from Twitter Deck that will automatically alert me when topics in the category are posted. While politics, economics, lifestyles, environment all made the list, there was no separate category for education and therefore, no way to be alerted to its news.

Each time I post to Huffington, I have to decide on which page my education articles should appear. Lifestyle? Impact? There are separate pages for relationships, happiness and style -- but education doesn't warrant its own page, not here, and apparently not anywhere where there is high visibility. Walk into any bookstore in this country and you'll notice that the education section is either in the far back of the store, on the very top floor or (in most large books stores), it is in the basement. It's not a wonder our educational system is likewise in the basement. Education doesn't seem to matter.

Anyone who had the privilege to know Ted Sizer understands that his work has not yet reached the apex of its influence. The educators in the United States who have embraced the concepts of the Essential Schools movement are doing good and important work. The schools that are genuinely practicing the principals of the Essential Schools are models for America. The United States needs models. We need examples of quality education and clear pictures of what works in schools. Absent knowing what to ask for, the American people cannot point out what they want for their children. This is a matter, not of only our country's place in the global economy, but a matter of our democracy.

Without good schools, the children in this country cannot grow up to be informed and active citizens. Without citizens who understand their rights, our democracy is in jeopardy. Without examples of what good schools are, Americans cannot protest because they do not know what to ask for in place of what they have.

The media has a role in raising awareness -- not only of the problems, not simply when there is shooting or a scandal, but also of the positive examples and the great possibilities. The media does this with the Green Movement, with health and with lifestyles. It's time for the media to recognize that education matters. Let's lift it out of the basement, put it on the front page, challenge weaknesses and celebrate successes--the media has the power to make education matter.

The importance of this is so that parents all over this nation know what is possible--so they know what to demand. This is a matter of social justice, equity and the future of democracy.

Education is not simply a matter of bake sales and backpacks, nor is it a matter of mass shootings and improper relationships. Learning is more than standardized tests and the debate over uniforms. The American people deserve to know about examples of great teaching and learning so they can demand it for their own children. The media has the power to show parents what it looks like. The time for this is now.