Education should prevail over politics

It’s easy for students on a college campus to forget the role primary and secondary education played in shaping their academic careers. The SAT, which causes so much hair loss among high school juniors and seniors, becomes a distant memory, and high school diplomas hanging in living rooms start to develop a thin film of dust. Students’ experiences in elementary, middle and high school begin to seem irrelevant as they transition to adulthood and focus on earning a college degree and joining the “real world.”

Yet high school graduation – a milestone that would appear to be a natural step for any student – does not play out for many. More than one in every four kids drops out of high school nationwide, according to an Associated Press article citing a study released earlier this year by America’s Promise Alliance, a foundation started by former Secretary of State Colin Powell to help children.

Such alarming statistics call for attention, and most importantly, action. President Barack Obama’s intention to address schoolchildren nationwide drew criticism from some politicians and parents who accused him of trying to indoctrinate children. To ease critics and silence rumors, the White House released the transcript of the speech before it was delivered so schools could review it. Even one of the speech’s most ardent critics, Florida GOP chairman Jim Greer, admitted that there was nothing wrong with the text, according to a New York Times article. Yet some parents kept their children from watching the speech.

Regardless of party affiliation or ideology, the president’s exhortation to students that they stay in school and make the best of their education should ring a bell for families across the country. Parents should not stop their children from listening to the president because they don’t agree with his policies. They should let their children form their own judgment about the president’s message. As for the younger students, parents should take Obama’s speech as an opportunity to talk about the importance of an education in shaping students into citizens who will make informed decisions about issues and think critically about their government.

Educated citizens won’t make up their minds without listening to the other side first. Their opinion may or may not change, but they’ve been fair in considering rival arguments in making a judgment. Don’t let the country become so polarized that a universal goal – the welfare of millions of children – will be muffled by bipartisan bickering.

Managing editor Julieta Chiquillo for the editorial board.