Panel Addresses Pitfalls of U.S. School

Rosemary Boeglin, News Editor

On Tuesday, Oberlin Young Educators, in conjunction with the Oberlin College Democrats and Oberlin College Republicans and Libertarians, hosted Education Nation, a panel to address issues in education policy reform, such as graduation rates, teacher wages and curriculum. 

College senior Rene Kamm, co-chair of OYE, said the group began planning for the panel in May, in order to bring attention to the pitfalls of the American education system.

“[Part of] our mission is to get people involved in education outreach, and the other aspect is to create a physical, open and inclusive forum on the issue of education and education reform — for the purpose of raising awareness and hopefully to build a critical mass of voices to create change.”

In an effort to avoid taking a political stance, OYE asked the OC Democrats and the OC Republicans and Libertarians to invite speakers to represent stances from the left and right.

“With the left you’re going to see more of a focus on teachers unions, and from the right you’re going to see more of a focus on charter schools, which are the main trends with education reform right now,” Kamm said. “We wanted to make sure that we had both of those viewpoints represented. And [the speakers] delivered — both panelists [that the] OC Democrats and the OC Republicans and Libertarians brought were fantastic.”

Despite discussion about charter schools and voucher systems, Kamm said, for him, the ultimate goal is to improve public education.

“I truly believe that education is a human right. It is one of the rights we should be afforded in the Constitution — an education from the state. When that’s not working, that’s when the need for charter schools and voucher programs arise, so it’s a solution, but it’s not a fundamental solution. It’s not in the realm of public education, so its not going to be equitable. It doesn’t serve everybody, that’s just the nature of it.”

Kamm said that those in attendance at the panel left without clear answers to the problems of education reform.

“What we can draw from the panel was that there wasn’t really a sense of resolution, there wasn’t a clear cut answer to [education reform], and I don’t think there is because it’s such a complicated problem. What people agreed on was that there should be a fundamental change in philosophy — we have to want to be the best in education. Is the political will there? Are parents involved enough? Are schools equitable enough?” Kamm asked.

OYE and Oberlin College Democrats will host Kevin Jennings, former Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education of the Obama administration, next Tuesday.