How Public Schools Shaped My Life

For the next few weeks, Progressive Massachusetts is highlighting one aspect of our Shared Prosperity Agenda, having our members write their perspectives on why Education, Healthcare, Housing, Jobs and Wages, and Progressive Revenue are important to them.

For our first week, we are focusing on Education -- Within five years, we want free, publicly funded education for all residents from pre-K through Community, Vocational, or Four-Year College, but a good first step would be universal, publicly funded pre-K available for all residents.

This is part three of our three-part series on education written by Susan Davidoff, Jane Franz, Maxwell Morrongiello, with input from several others; this post is written by Maxwell Morrongiello. Thank you!

In the first part of this series, Progressive Massachusetts made a case for the economic argument of providing free Pre-K and Higher Education. This is a critical piece of our education policy, but it’s not the whole picture. Education is more than just graduating high school, in order to go to a good college, to get a good job. It is much more than that. We spend years of our lives in our school system, and our time there shapes not just our future success, but who we are as people.

School was very tough for me growing up. I was an outcast and had trouble fitting in. Later in my childhood, I was diagnosed with mild Asperger Syndrome, which is a less severe form of autism. I was viewed as different in school, and was ostracized for it. Life was a tough time for me growing up, but it shaped who I am as a person today, and would not change it.

max.jpgI came to that conclusion later in life when I started attending college at a state university. I was taking a sociology class at the time which really opened my eyes as to how our society shapes us as people. Before, I was convinced that what I went through was my fault, and that I was the sole person responsible for my experiences. I was wrong. There is an expression that it takes a community to raise a child. Education is more than drilling facts into your head. People learn how to interact with each other in our school system. These interactions are key to our future development. When kids say bad things, or ostracize others, that are reflected not just of our education system, but are a microcosm of our culture. Our concepts of masculinity and competitiveness come from our time in our schools. These traits, while beloved by some, aren’t necessarily ideal. They influence our lives well into adulthood. If you want gender equality, it starts in our education system. If you want to end our “Greed is good” mentality, where do you think it comes from? It starts at childhood. Our schools need the resources for us not to just memorize facts, but to instil values, and show us how to interact with one another as a community. We need to teach not the values of testosterone, and over-confidence, but the values of evidence. Children grow through experience and role-play. But to do that, we need to fundamentally change the toxic culture of our schools system, of only focusing on standardized tests, and focus on the social and civil growth our youth.

However, this will not be easy. My family had to fight tooth and nail to get the accommodations I needed to succeed. This is a fight that many parents face, pitting them against the school system. The school system resists because they don’t have the funding to do what is right. This is not just about special education. To change the culture, we need investment in the whole system. Unfortunately, the first thing to get the axe during budget cuts, are music, the arts, and other electives. This is a step in the wrong direction. In order to change the system, we to commitment for better funding, and to actually sit down and collaborate on how to redefine the fabric of our schools.

It’s no coincidence that I came to these conclusions during college at a public school. Higher Education for me wasn’t just about getting a job. I have always loved to learn, and college opened my eyes to the world. Everything I learned at different courses in college, though in different disciplines, was all related to each other some way. College taught me unique concepts, which were different lenses to view the world. To top things off, my social sphere blossomed in college. I had lots friends in college, after having none in high school. College, like K-12, isn’t just about the classes; it’s about learning your place in life.

It comes down to this, if we want our society to be a bunch of suits, that make a lot of cash, but find no fulfillment in life, then we are on the right course. But human beings yearn for fulfillment, fulfillment that cannot be obtained through material goods alone. We need to recognize that the goal of government isn’t just to provide economic prosperity, but allow us to enrich our lives with depth and meaning. Only then can we truly prosper.

~ Maxwell Morrongiello (ProgressiveMax)

See what the gubernatorial candidates have to say about these and other education and workforce development proposals here, Lieutenant Governor Candidates here, Treasurer here, and Attorney General here.

See our full statement of Education Values here.

Sign our petition here!

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