Dr. Walter Greason
Norristown Times Herald
1 October 2013
High school students across the Philadelphia metropolitan region need more support. The financial crisis consuming the city extends to many of the working-class suburbs like Norristown and Phoenixville. However, these conditions provide important opportunities for fundamental reform. In southeastern Pennsylvania, and across the nation, it is time to set higher goals for young people. With these new goals, parents and teachers must accept greater responsibility to build a new scaffold to success.
By the time students start their first year of high school, they must understand that they are competing with a billion other students worldwide. Their competition is not in the next town or the next state as most parents and teachers experienced over the last twenty years. Today’s students must find adults who can teach and learn alongside them, while implementing the advantages of widespread Internet access – both inside and outside of the classroom. Artificial benchmarks of mathematic, scientific, and literacy goals reflect early twentieth century perceptions of academic achievement. Everyone must shift from emphasizing the “products” of education to a sustained engagement with multiple “processes.” At the very least, graduating high school seniors must understand that their career goals must include becoming a job creator instead of settling for a life filled with job-seeking activities.
This shift is absolutely crucial for students seeking to enroll in college and to enjoy the coming admissions season. The promise of a career extended to college graduates between 1940 and 1960 fostered the student loan bubble that has emerged since 1998. Many of the most competitive undergraduate schools continue to fuel this fiscal instability by resisting entrepreneurship education in the most critical and creative fields. Now, more than ever, the humanities and interdisciplinary studies faculty hold the keys to lifelong excellence. Pioneering scholars like James Peterson (Lehigh University), Yohuru Williams (Fairfield University), Greg Carr (Howard University), Richard Veit (Monmouth University), Mary Sies (University of Maryland), Nikitah Imani (University of Nebraska at Omaha), Kim Gallon (Muhlenberg College), Julian Chambliss (Rollins College), Adisa Alkebulan (San Diego State University), and Jodi Bornstein (Arcadia University) have crafted innovative programs that equal or surpass the quality of larger, more famous initiatives across the country. Their unique approaches to research, teaching, and global service produce young leaders who will reshape the world in the twenty-first century. Parents and teachers in the Philadelphia region who want their students to revitalize their homes, neighborhoods, and world should look beyond superficial college rankings and seek out excellent professors who distinguish themselves outside of their classrooms and scholarship.
Discovering these hidden paragons of academic life is the first step to crafting a new path to success. While television shows and movies have platforms like the Emmys and the Oscars to showcase the best entertainers, the world’s best educators receive little notoriety. Perhaps Norristown can take the lead in celebrating the best students, teachers, and professors in all of the regional media. A few minutes and kind words of recognition might show legislators and other politicians how invaluable quality education truly is.
Dr. Walter Greason is the Executive Director of the International Center for Metropolitan Growth and author of Suburban Erasure: How the Suburbs Ended the Civil Rights Movement in New Jersey. His work is available on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).