Last night's election was historic on many levels. One of the most interesting things said about it was that "the election has changed the gray matter of the country". Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson made this comment on MSNBC last night in trying to describe the impact the election has had on him, and will have on all of us in both profound and subtle ways. Many commentators have talked about how this election will change the psyche of America and the world.
I've been trying to think about this phenomenon in terms of what it means for education. I believe it could have subtle and profound impacts here as well. In the most profound way, I believe that Barack Obama's success resonates as a blueprint for the American Dream, and that it is now finally and truly available to everyone in this country. How many times did we hear last night from teary-eyed civil rights leaders, "now we can tell our children that they can be anything they want to be, and now we will be telling the truth".
While this shift in ideology is profound in itself, what is even more profound for education is in the analysis of the blueprint. Barack Obama is where he is today because of education. Anyone looking at his story can now see clearly that the pathway to the American dream is through education. What is soaking into the gray matter of this country right now is that the hope of our future is through the education of everyone in our society.
Barack Obama talks about how his mother would wake him up early to study. This resonates with educators on at least two levels. One, his family valued his education, and was integrally involved in his disciplined journey through the education system. Barack Obama rose from a modest background into the intellectual elite in this country through education because it was expected of him, and because he had the support of his family . And two, education is hard work. Here is a man who I've already described as intellectually elite. A man who attended Harvard Law School and edited their Law Review. A man who eloquently addresses and analyzes complex issues. And, he worked hard in school.
We have much work to do to make the dream of equal education for everyone a true reality. There are still too many inequalities in the state of facilities, the allocation of resources, and the veracity of our commitment to the schools in our under-served communities. These inequalities will not be overcome easily or quickly, but now there is a new mind-set for the students, teachers and parents at these schools. For the first time in many of these communities, it is conceivable that hard work can lift a child from the conditions of their surroundings to the heights of their imaginations. It is now conceivable that any child who works hard can compete in America's meritocracy and be rewarded. For the first time, it is conceivable that though barriers will still exist, there is a pathway through them that leads to success.
If this indomitable spirit oozes into the gray matter of all of our children, all of our families, all of society, then our educational system can finally become the meritocracy it has promised to be.