Canada: U.S. education system doomed

By Molly Stieber

The U.S. education system will fail, said one education specialist, if it’s left solely to the… The U.S. education system will fail, said one education specialist, if it’s left solely to the government. Education is the whole community’s responsibility, Geoffrey Canada, president and CEO of Harlem Children’s Zone, an organization that provides educational programs for poor families, told a group of students and adults gathered in the Cathedral of Learning Thursday afternoon. ‘The same geniuses that destroyed the economy of this nation are in charge of preparing this nation for the future,’ he said. ‘No one is going to save your children but you. ‘We have created a system in this country, and if we continue with this system, we are going to destroy our nation,’ he added. Canada said the United States is stuck in the past. It focuses on the wrong problems, he said A country’s strength, he added, is not in how many bombs it has, but in how many people with doctorates it can produce.’ ‘How come countries like India and China are preparing their children for global competition and we are not?’ he asked. ‘I have met many government officials, even a few presidents. They don’t have any plans. You are the only way change can be made.’ Having grown up in a poor section of the South Bronx, Canada said he could directly relate to the effects that lack of education can have on children in a poor community. He said he thought children living in these communities needed something to keep them off the streets. So, he founded the Harlem Children’s Zone. The organization, which works block by block to serve about 8,000 people in central Harlem, New York City, provides parenting workshops, all-day pre-kindergarten classes in foreign languages and various after-school programs. The organization began in 1997, when it served 24 blocks. As of last year, it was covering 97. Some of its graduates have gone on to become doctors, dentists, psychologists and teachers. Canada said skeptics, even some first-class educators, have told him that it’s hopeless to try to help people after they complete fifth grade. So, he serves people of all ages. During his lecture, he made an effort to speak directly to the parents in attendance. ‘Mostly we talk about parents helping children in school, but we forget that we often have to help our parents. It is scary when your 9-year-old child comes home from school asking you a question about photosynthesis, something you do not even remember learning,’ said Canada.’ Canada said numerous people have come up to him to praise the work he’s doing. He’s not so convinced it’s great. ‘What we are doing is merely average. People are so excited by what is going on because this is happening to poor kids, but this is merely average. These are average kids in America, so … the education we help to give them should be expected. The fact that we think it is great is disturbing,’ said Canada.’ ‘ Canada said he hopes the government, under the direction of the Obama administration, will help turn the U.S. education system around. ‘People are going to fight him to the end, telling [Obama] we don’t have the money for these issues. They will claim that after the stimulus package, there will be not enough money left, but really, what is another trillion dollars?’ asked Canada. The key to fixing the system, Canada said, will be thinking in new ways. ‘So many people will tell you the reasons why this is not going to work, but if you are not willing to think outside the box, you will end up allowing young people to fail when they could succeed.’