Dear Harvard, we have a problem. The educational system is broken. Surely you can help fix it?
We have a problem.
Look, the educational system is broken. It isn’t even an argument. It is unfair by race. It is unfair by socioeconomic class. It is unfair by gender. It is unfair by the amount of innate intelligence a child is born with. The current educational system unfairly dictates how much you will earn the rest of your life, whether you’ve got a shot at getting out of poverty, or whether you’re going to continue being rich. It starts at a the base level, at a small school sprouting up from the ground in Alabama to a 6th grade science lab in Harlem with no lab equipment. It starts with the way some school systems get money, and some don’t. Some kids get to go to private schools who openly flaunt the number of graduates that get into the Ivy’s. I don’t need a degree from your university to understand that, in this country, it is the luck of the draw that allows a child to go to attend a good school system or not. And try as I might to see how this is “justice for all,” I simply cannot see it as anything but unfair.
And, Harvard—(I’m picking on you, Harvard, but it could also be your good brothers Yale, Dartmouth, MIT, Princeton, etc.)—you do understand, don’t you, that this is elitism, and you do everything you can to foster being elite?
Your very being, the core of your soul, is designed to keep people out. To only allow the cream of the crop in. Give the people who come to Harvard an education that they simply cannot get elsewhere. Hoard your professors, hoard your resources so that only a select few will get the topmost education. A show of hands, please, by all those who think that maybe, just maybe, this may be unfair as well.
At one point in my life I wanted to be a geologist. I had the finest rock collection a nine-year-old could ever have. Mica, quartz, topaz, limestone, geodes. Organized and labeled and categorized. I knew the color, the weight, the physical properties of all of them. Years later, all grown up and with a nine-year-old of my own, I walked into my son’s public school classroom with my rock collection.
And the teacher said, “Oh, look class, wasn’t it nice that Ms. Hickey brought in her collection. Now we can study rocks.”
Now we can study rocks. It wasn’t until I thought to share my rock collection that the school system thought that studying rocks was even a possibility.
Sure, a lack of geological knowledge might not be enough on its own to keep a kid out of Harvard. But a lack of a thousand-dollar tutoring system to get those SAT scores up? That will probably do it.
Harvard, I have to ask this. You’re smart. You’re rich. You’re powerful. Who better to fix this broken education system than you? Who better to help make this work than the very institution we hold up in esteem as the finest in the land, the colleges and universities that gave our country the reputation it has now? Who better to innovate widespread, systematic, educational change than the universities who are now producing some of the finest innovators we’ve ever seen? Who better to spread out the educational resources that you believe make the best students in the world?
The solution is not really all that complicated. What I am asking for is equality.
If you wake up each morning, thinking, “How can we make Harvard a better place?” then perhaps you’ve got it wrong. Wouldn’t it be better to wake up and say, “How can we make the educational system inherently fair for our children?”
Harvard, what if the only thing left to do is to stop worrying about being so elite? What if the only thing left to do is to share?
After all, look what happened a few years ago when a bunch of colleges and universities got together and decided to share information with each other.
Y’all invented the Internet.
Photo: Boston Public Library / Flickr