Education is Not Elitist

Whatever side of the aisle you’re on, chances are you were moved by a statement new Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made on the House floor last week regarding climate change. In it, she stated:

 "(Climate change) is not an elitist issue, this is a quality of life issue," she said. "You want to tell people that their concern and their desire for clean air and clean water is elitist? Tell that to the kids in the south Bronx, which are suffering from the highest rates of childhood asthma in the country. Tell that to the families in Flint whose kids have their blood ascending in lead levels, their brains are damaged for the rest of their lives. Call them elitist." (1)

Now trade out “climate change” for “education”. Replace “clean air and clean water” with “being seen and being understood”. Substitute “asthma” with “reading levels” and mention how Michigan is one of only 15 states in the country that does not limit class size. As a result, teachers are watching their average class size increase from an average of 27 in 2015. (2)

Education is not an elitist issue. There is nothing elitist about the desire for every child to receive access to learning that transcends academics. Teachers understand that schools are incubators for socialization, emotional growth, and character development.

Education is a moral issue.

Access to limitless information requires control, synthesis, and judgment. Morality comes into play in all of these, and it is therefore important to reframe discussions about education from academics to morality. 

Morality is as central to schools as oxygen is to the air we protect. Teachers make moral decisions every moment of the day. Which student to call on (and for what reasons), how to critique without condescension, how to clarify without convolution.

Information is there for everyone to access. Yet it requires responsible modeling from the teachers, parents, and other adults in the caretaking role.

There is nothing elitist about requiring our schools to give teachers time to effectively manage the moral climate of their classrooms. When a student is clearly struggling with a concept. When a student is dealing with ostracism. When a student receives positive accolades and must handle it with humility. When you’ve got a classroom divided by AOC supporters and Trump supporters. When you have only one student representing either side.

When we view education as a moral issue, we are acknowledging the human side of teaching and learning. Reach Academics is predicated on the research-supported notion that learning is cognitive, emotional and social. Therefore, we cannot sanitize it by removing the moral spirit that transcends all.

The world might not end in 12 years. But we are only given 13 years to educate a child. Let’s not ignore the role of morality in the classroom by arguing that the topic is elitist in itself.




Nat Damon