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Obama Puts Education Center-Stage

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As I enter my senior year in the public school system, I have grown to learn and appreciate the education I have recieved, from my kindergarten teacher to my seven teachers in high school and countless mentors I have today. The nation's leaders say that America is falling behind on a world wide stage when it comes to our technology, mathematics, medicine and science. The foundations of our country is built on good education and I believe that the candidates running for President of the United States need to put education on the top of their radar.

Education has taken a backseat in this election, but the fact that President Barack Obama devoted so much time on it in his Democratic National Convention Speech on Thursday now makes it a bigger issue. The standards of No Child Left Behind make no sense to me -- how 99 percent of students somehow can reach a standard that is set so high is mind-boggling.

"Life is not a multiple choice test," said Anne Pasco, a mentor of mine and the Blended Learning Coordinator at Consolidated School District 158 in Huntley, IL.

It is true, students are not going to be given choices in life such as A, B, C or D. Why are American students taught to put so much focus on standardized testing? And does that really give an accurate picture of a student? I can tell you my ACT score does not reflect me, but because colleges focus on the numbers I have to go take the ACT again Saturday to somehow raise my score to prove to colleges that I am worthy of attending their school.

What needs to be a center-stage topic in both President Obama's campaign and former Governor Mitt Romney's campaign in the last few weeks of the election is education. America will not solve problems that will hit this country when I grow up to be the ages of our candidates. Our problems on a global scale may be worse if our education system is not reformed.

"And now you have a choice. We can gut education, or we can decide that in the United States of America, no child should have her dreams deferred because of a crowded classroom or a crumbling school. No family should have to set aside a college acceptance letter because they don't have the money. No company should have to look for workers overseas because they couldn't find any with the right skills here at home. That's not our future. That is not our future," said Obama in his speech. "A government has a role in this. But teachers must inspire; principals must lead; parents must instill a thirst for learning, and students, you've gotta do the work."

Where all aspects of education -- including primary, secondary and post-secondary schools -- need to look is boundless education. The idea that students can't study whatever they want, whatever they desire. Currently I am taking a class called American Diversity at Huntley High School in Huntley, IL. This class focuses on discussions about race, culture and things that have never even crossed my mind. They aren't lectures or multiple choices tests, there are discussions and reflections to learn in a different environment that promotes a different outlook on learning.

My Media Productions course -- in which students create the newspaper for our school -- teaches accountability in the real world. Classes happening below me on the first floor are a part of Huntley's new Medical Academy, a specialized set of classes focused on medical-related fields.

Some students at my school are in the library or the hallways self-studying in Blended Learning classes that works on time management skills and technology skills, where students meet some days in class and other days they work on their assignments online.

And at one of the elementary schools in the district, my third grade brother is using a tablet to do his language arts homework and play math games to study for tests. This is a kid who never had the motivation to do homework when he comes home, now cannot wait to turn on his tablet and start learning.

Boundless education is where students aren't stuck with the normal path. Students who excel in areas of a subject are challenged with real-world scenarios. They aren't limited by standardized test performance, prerequisites or their grade level. When students have opportunities to soar in their academic abilities -- like amazing athletes who play varsity their sophomore year -- amazing things will begin to develop. I know this because my school hasn't put boundaries on me, and because of that, I know I am going to be more successful.

So, students who are voting for the first time and grandparents who are trying to make a better place for their their grandchildren: Consider what both candidates offer and promise about education reform because this issue matters. It may not be something Americans see the effects of tomorrow, but I promise that our country, over the next 50 years, will be a reflection of the education system today.