857 empty desks = number of dropouts from American schools every hour of every day
Tourists trying to figure out how to reach the capital’s monuments and museums on Wednesday found something on the National Mall that was not on their maps: 857 student desks arrayed near the Washington Monument.
Each desk represents one of the 857 students who drop out of high school in the United States every single hour, every single school day, according to the College Board, which arranged the display to underline its effort to urge presidential candidates to put education at the top of their to-do lists.
The board had nearly a dozen people, iPads in hand, gathering signatures in nearly 100-degree weather for an online petition that said: “If you want my support, I need to hear more from you about how you plan to fix the problems with education. And not just the same old platitudes. I want to know that you have real, tangible solutions, and that once in office, you’re ready to take serious action. I’ll be watching your acceptance speech at your party’s convention…”
The man responsible for executing the display is Adam Hollander, 38, of New York, executive creative producer for Brand Marketers. “We now live in a very visual culture,” he said, his complexion florid after hours in the sun on Tuesday. “Now, you have to see it to believe it. Everybody hears that 857 number, but it doesn’t really mean anything until you’re able to see it.”
Both President Obama and Mitt Romney, his presumptive Republican opponent, often mention the importance of education, usually in the context of fixing the country’s economy and creating jobs, or of making college more affordable — the subject of a speech by Mr. Obama in January. In a speech in May, Mr. Romney proposed allowing poor and disabled students to use federal money to attend any public, private or online school they choose.
Taxpayer-funded vouchers for parents who want to send their kids to private schools has absolutely nothing to do with improving our public school system.
A group of girls enrolled in a summer art camp stopped by the desks on display and offered their thoughts on education.
“I think it’s really bad that we have enough money to fund wars and we have enough money to fund huge projects, but we don’t have enough money to keep kids in school,” said Hannah Getto, 13, of Michigan.
Gabrielle Moore, 14, of Virginia, did not buy the idea that changes to education should wait until the economy and the housing market recover. “We don’t know how long this is going to last, and we can’t just push it to the side and wait until later,” she said.
But, that is what our elected Congress-critters end up doing. Even when Democrats and a few Republicans convinced of the need to have educated citizens offer proposals – the only task appealing to today’s Republicans, Kool Aid Party Konservatives, is what they might remove from education.
They would be pleased to remove education about sex, lose any references to civics and voting rights, don’t allow a modern understanding of civil rights in through the door that includes people of all faiths and every natural gender. Perish the thought our elected officials support programs designed to make education a priority over, say, aircraft carriers and the latest addition to our arsenal of death and destruction.
I hope the display brings support from the public at large. I expect little other than lies and excuses from the clown show inside the Beltway in Washington DC.