Setting new priorities for public education

Student Perspective

By |  Valantina Zeremariam

Treat Us Like the Future, Not the Burden. Let’s Get Real.

 In 2003, the aftermath of the bloodshed of the Eritrean-Ethiopian war, my parents decide to immigrate to the United States, “The Land of Opportunity.’’ My mother especially began hoping that she would be able to receive the education she craved, but unfortunately she was unable to obtain the education that she was promised. Then, she carried her love of education to her children. The educational system continued to disappoint my family multiple times along with countless other marginalized families, and it began to feel hopeless. The myth of meritocracy is heavily embedded in all systems throughout the United States, and the educational system is often unable to address and mitigate the systematic issues within it. There is constant change in our society, while our educational system remains stagnant. The current educational system was built on the hierarchy of White supremacy. The barrier to change is the fear of making White people uncomfortable because the district wants to remain neutral. If the district remains indifferent, it is less problematic for the people in power. 

Discussing human rights for the ones who are oppressed should not be a topic that schools are indifferent about. It should not be a burden to ensure that children are treated with equity and able to obtain necessary resources, but instead it is easier to take a photo of minorities in the classroom and claim how diverse the community is. Although our community has progressed, more progress is needed. Currently, the coronavirus pandemic has largely impacted the function of the educational system along with other systematic institutions. Before the pandemic, many families were dependent on the resources schools provided. Once the pandemic is over, what will happen? Since March 2020, the eyes of many have been opened on how necessary systematic change is. Although the COVID-19 has had countless negative impacts on our society, this new reality can be seen as a pathway toward change, especially in education. 

The public educational system is controlled by the government, which also means that political aspects are embedded in the functions of schools. What’s the fear about talking about political events? It is understood that teachers must ensure that the students meet the standards of the curriculum, and this leads to a gap in educating students on current events that impact society’s future. Students must have honest dialogue about what is occuring in our community. Moreover, the current political climate has increased tension during this pandmeic, and the educational system has since evolved along with politics. It can be said that the educational system is a democractic institution, but there is stigma in addressing that aspect of it. Students would much rather know the full and honest story of current events. What are the people in power trying to hide? That the school system is constructed to have children believe that our society is perfect? That as a community, we cannot improve if the flaws cannot be addressed especially when it comes down to human rights? 

For instance, during this pandemic, many students were comfortable speaking up about the sexual harassment/assault on social media. DPS students protested to ask for curriculum discussing sex education, including consent. Considering that sexually transmitted diseases are increasing, it is essential that students are educated on sexuality for everyone’s safety. From the students’ understanding, many schools and teachers are afraid to have real conversations. But eventually, real conversations are needed. As we see in history, remaining indifferent and neutral has not benefited the ones who are oppressed.

Once a community begins and continues to have truthful discussion, we can work through our systemic issues by formulating plans to improve. The community can then work toward integrating a more career-focused curriculum in schools and providing more internships/apprenticeships to have discussions about our futures to ensure that students have a plan. As a junior in high school, I find it stressful thinking about the future because I, along with countless other students, feel lost on where to start. The Denver community could implement content, resources, and opportunities for students to ensure that individuals feel successful. Every student has potential to be intelligent, but it depends on the resources and opportunities available for them. Nevertheless, the community and even the United States as a whole need to supply equity before claiming it to be “The Land of Opportunity,” and to follow through with the promises made. 

Brief Bio

Valantina Zeremariam is a student athlete at Denver South High School, and has been a member of Colorado Youth Congress since 2019. She plans on finding a passion in the medical field.