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What I Told The White House About Public Education

Public education is one of America's greatest success stories -- so let's stop talking about the system as if it's irretrievably broken.

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Susan Gobreski of Education Voters reminded the administration that we must re-frame the discussion of education, focusing on equity rather than accountability. And I reminded Mr. Rodriguez that the White House has a bully pulpit and that we want them to use it. “Here’s what I want you to say,” I told him. “Public schools are a public good.”

I told the White House to stop talking about failing schools as if they were the rule rather than the exception, which only serves to paint all public education with the same toxic brush. That’s not to say we shouldn’t fix problems where they occur, or focus on significant issues such as graduation rates for some populations. I believe we have to address trenchant disparities along lines of race, class, and gender. But we’ve got to shift the larger debate and start talking about the good that public education serves. Because public education is one of America’s great success stories. Because public education is the key to our children’s future. Because it’s for our common good.



Jessie B. Ramey, Ph.D., is the ACLS New Faculty Fellow in Women's Studies and History at the University of Pittsburgh. She is a historian of working families and social reform and author of the award-winning, Childcare in Black and White: Working Parents and the History of Orphanages (University of Illinois Press, 2012). She is the founder of Yinzercation, a blog and website for a grassroots public education advocacy movement in Pennsylvania.