Need for education reform strikes a chord

Wake up!

This is what singer/songwriter John Legend and soulful band The Roots have been crying out to America for the past two months. No, they are not serving as alarm clocks for your little brother or sister, but rather an effective wake-up call for those who can make a difference for children in need. The difference to be made: education reform.

Legend is a renowned music artist, gracing the airways with his piano and moving voice. He’s been recording since 2004 when he released his debut album, Get Lifted, and has been featured on songs with Kanye West and others since then. The Roots, comprised of versatile music artists, formed in the late 80’s. They remain faithful to an old school sound with hip-hop and blues fused together.

Their rhythm mixed with Legend’s makes for an interesting, new musical experience.

A few tracks have been used in the education reform documentary “Waiting for Superman” because of the similar message. “Shine” was a featured song that captures the struggle for children that is presented in the film.

A change must come soon.

That change is important because over 1 billion people in the world are illiterate. Just to paint a picture of how staggering that number is, imagine 16,000 Memorial Stadiums filled to capacity, and you’ll have your population of people unable to read in the world.

Of that number 130 million are children, according to fao.org. The phrase “children are the future” speaks volumes about why reform is necessary.

If we consider compulsory education laws, a vast majority of our 50 states require individuals to attend school up until the age of 16. However, Indiana in particular has an interesting statute: Students who wish to leave school at that age must go through an exit interview process. Otherwise, school is no longer mandated for students at age 18.

According to the official state codes of Legislative Reference Bureau websites, in very few states, including California, Washington DC and Hawaii, is education compulsory all the way through senior year of high school, typically age 17-18. Adjusting required length of schooling is just one of many ways to reform education. Depending on the government to save the day won’t suffice; everyday people can aid reform in their own little way.

Just this past Saturday, Legend and The Roots played at Clowes Memorial Hall at Butler University in Indiana. There they held a diversity lecture after the concert, where the audience had the chance to shed light on the importance of education. Advancing humanity starts with one person wanting to be the difference maker and stand up for a meaningful cause. This tour and its music can influence others to take an active role in the promotion of coming together and helping children realize their dreams for the future.

I would have loved for the tour to make a stop in Chambana. Songs such as “Hard Times” and “Hang On In There” are inspirational in their own right, and the lyrics push for a real understanding of the work it takes to change the world for the better.

After learning more about this tour and listening to the music, I certainly have a newfound appreciation for education majors. I commend the efforts of Teach for America and programs like Media Workshop for Champaign-area middle schools.

Any contribution to this “Wake Up!” movement is a step in the right direction. As college students, it is easy to focus only on our own education and getting by.

Yet, just like our own children in the future will depend on us to provide them with resources necessary for educational success, other less fortunate children need assistance as well. Who will help them?

Dave is a senior in Media.