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Nikhil Goyal

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Live by your Word, Mr. President

Posted: 01/30/2012 8:25 am

Let's play a game. Can you figure out who said the following?

"...Teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren't helping kids learn."

Was it Diane Ravitch? No! Alfie Kohn? Sorry! Charlie Sheen? Are you nuts?

The answer is President Obama. In his State of the Union address last week, the president hammered home some of the education reforms he has made during his tenure. The quote from the State of the Union is, however, quite ironic. Obama's policies actually require more
standardized testing, accountability measures that link teacher evaluations to test scores, and a process of 'drill, kill, bubble-fill' in classrooms. His education programs, like Race to the Top, are killing education in America.

Proposals include testing preschoolers, increasing the number of charter schools, and continuing an overreliance on high-stakes testing. As Charlie Sheen perhaps may intelligently note, "America's on a drug, it's called standardized testing. If you try it you will die. Your face will melt off and your children will weep over your exploded body."

Later in the speech, the president called for every state to require students to stay in school until they turn 18, in an attempt to address the alarming dropout rate, where every nine seconds a kid drops out of school. However, his proposal does not do anything to address the crisis, many analysts say. It's imperative to look to the reasons why kids drop out in the first place.

Contrary to popular belief, as the report, The Silent Epidemic, reveals, most of the dropouts (70 percent) were confident that they could have graduated, and 81 percent recognized that graduating high school was essential to their success. Then what was the primary reason for dropping out? Simply, because SCHOOL WAS BORING! I don't blame them. Nearly half of the young adults explained that they dropped out because their classes were uninteresting. Interestingly, 81 percent said they would not have dropped out if the subjects were more relevant to real life.

Mr. President, keeping these kids in a school system that is failing miserably and lacks relevance to their lives will not solve anything. This trend must be reversed.

Ultimately, education does not need to be reformed. It needs to be revolutionized. Everyone -- educators, politicians, students, parents, and anyone affected by the school system -- needs to ask themselves a simple, yet powerful question: How can we make school the best hours of a kid's day?

I want kids to be running to school in the morning and being forced out at the end of the day. Imagine a school like that.

And Mr. President, live by your word. Let schools "teach with passion and creativity." Call for a repeal of Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind. To make America great again, we need to transform American schools. Mr. President, you said it best: "This nation is great, because we built it together. This nation is great, because we worked as a team. This nation is great, because we get each other's backs."

No challenge is too great for this country. We have to cultivate -- holistically and whole-heartedly -- our powers of imagination and creativity within a different paradigm of human purpose. Michelangelo once said, "The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it." For all our futures, we need to aim high. We need to think different.

Bring on the learning revolution!

Nikhil is currently writing a book on education reform.