Saturday, November 8, 2008

Yes, We Can, Mr. President-Elect!

I want to congratulate President-elect Barack Obama. We don't know each other but we've been communicating. On November 4, 2008, the President-elect looked right at me and spoke directly to me during his acceptance speech. He said,"And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn – I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too." Thank you, Mr. President-elect. I heard you and I pledge my unwavering support to your presidency.

I was moved by my President-elect's promise to me. Determined to find out if he'd really heard my voice, I began devouring information on his education platform. Yep! He appeared to have heard my deepest concern expressed in August, 2008 when I signed the CoSN,ISTE, NEA, SETA online petition in support of making 21st century classrooms a top national priority. He even seemed to respond to the petition on August 28, 2008 during his speech at the Democratic National Convention. He said, "Now is the time to finally meet our moral obligation to provide every child a world-class education, because it will take nothing less to compete in the global economy."

Mr. President-elect, I believe you genuinely want to provide a world-class education for all American children. As parents, you and I have a common understanding of the compelling, driving hope all parents share. We all dream that our children will enjoy an empowering education. Listen to me, please. I'm whispering, so you'll listen very closely.

If you want your children and my child, and all American children to have a world class education, you must connect them to the world.

The transportation to a world-class education is a sound, reliable, high-speed information super highway that can lead our schools into the 21st century. Our educators cannot possibly take our children to "meet the world" without a road to travel that begins at the schoolhouse door. We cannot join the world's growing learning revolution with patched school infrastructure, blocked information resources, minimal technical support, insufficient professional development, minimal funding and lack of coherence and vision for educational technology at the national level.

I'm very concerned that the U.S. Department of Labor reports that education is dead last on a list of 55 industries in its use of technology. I'm devastated that the New Commission of the Skills for the American Workforce in it's landmark 2007 report Tough Choices or Tough Times describes our public schools as failing in this "Portrait of a Failing School System."

I'm angry to watch as our country "bails out" Wall Street and considers "bailing out" the automobile industry. Can you see that American educators have every right to be outraged? Our country's Congressional leaders, and, yes, our President, have been warned repeatedly by governmental agencies that the U.S. education system is failing our children. Yet, where is education's "bail out?" Where is the complete infrastructure we need to revamp and reform our business? Our "product" - the nation's children - are the economy of the future - the hope of our nation. Our "business" is critical to national competitiveness and, yes, to our national security. Mr. President-elect, so many educators want to reform our failed system. We know how to do it but our road is blocked. We simply cannot transport our students to a world class education when we remain trapped in cement block walls with inferior networks, impossible bureaucratic barriers, and blocked access to many of the most powerful learning tools.

Help us, the nation's educators, Mr. President-elect. Our country's teachers aspire to become William Glasser's "quality teacher" We want to convince "not half or three-quarters but all of our students to do quality work in school," but we cannot convince 21st century learners to engage with 20th century tools! Throughout our great country's history the "tools of the age" have transported our nation's progress. The tools of the Industrial Age transformed our nation's workforce. The tools of the Information Age transformed our world's workforce. And now, as we enter the Conceptual Age, the incredible tools of World Wide Web promise to transport our global community to a "world class" education. Listen carefully, Mr. President-elect: If you truly want to lead our nation in a transformation of 20th century schools to world class 21st century schools, connect our schools to the internet, unleash some the barriers to information access and hold our profession accountable for reforming school.

Throughout your campaign, Mr. President-elect, you demonstrated an undeniable grasp of the power of technology to transform and energize your political engine. You wisely took advantage of broadband connections to inform, to communicate, to survey, to recruit, to inspire, to learn and to lead. Technology gave you a distinct advantage. I ask you now, President-elect Obama, won't you make very certain every American child has that same opportunity to use the tools of the age to reach their highest potential? I want to thank you for listening to me. Because I am able to sit in my own livingroom and communicate with you via the amazing information super highway, I have the highest hope that you will "hear me." I want you to know, however, that many teachers and students do not have this privilege in our schools. We can do something about this.
Yes, we can.