Commissioner Gist does not appear to be someone I would recommend to teach high school civics. In fact, I believe she should go back to high school and retake the course. While there she can learn about the value of participating in our democracy, and meet many wonderful Providence students.
Our state education commissioner thought it useful to the public discussion on NECAP to tell community leaders who took the Providence Student Union’s mock NECAP that it is “deeply irresponsible on the part of the adults, especially those who are highly educated.” Eva Mancuso, chairwoman of the Board of Education, referred to the event as mere a “publicity stunt.”
As an educated adult who took the test and listened to the concerns of Providence students, I completely disagree. What could be more responsible on the part of elected officials, teachers, activists and community leaders than for us to sit down to learn about student concerns, and experience part of their classroom life by taking a mock NECAP? All in the effort to ponder questions on education policy.
More importantly, this was a student led effort. I am so happy that students are engaged in advocating for their own education and are participating in our democracy. This is something that is a great lesson for students, and Commissioner Gist would be wise to learn the lessons these students could teach her.
The first lesson could be on the importance of civic engagement. These young people are not afraid to join the public discussion and do not shy away from advocating for their fellow students. Something that is not seen in many other parts of America and is desperately needed. It is important that young people learn to be engaged in the democratic process. It can lead to life long engagement and participation. Commissioner Gist should be encouraging different viewpoints to join the discussion and have a civilized debate on the issues in the interest of creating good policy. It will also help instill democratic values in our students. Showing it is alright to disagree and can be respectful. Instead the commissioner has attacked the other side and attempts to make the other sides viewpoints appear unwarranted.
It is concerning when a commissioner of education tries to call elected officials and others irresponsible for listening to the concerns of students. When I sat in that room and listened to students they had valid complaints. They did not feel that the education they had received prepared them for this test.
These students also believe a person’s value can not be measured by a single test.
The idea one test can prevent someone from graduating high school has been controversial for years. I was part of the first year of high school students who had to pass MCAS (the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System), and I remember that debate. There is nothing unreasonable about students advocating to be judged on multiple factors, rather than just one test. Also these students don’t feel they are receiving the help they need to pass the test. This is a very important concern that Commissioner Gist needs to take seriously.
No one has more at state over education policy than the students themselves, I feel it is of the utmost importance that we listen to their concerns.
I hope Commissioner Gist will consider learning from these great students!
Alex Morash is the president of the Young Democrats of Rhode Island.