On the evening of Thursday, Oct. 20, members of the Tech community gathered in the Clary Theater in the Student Success Center to attend an education discussion hosted by the GT Roosevelt Institution. The evening consisted of a showing of the documentary Waiting for Superman followed by a panel discussion between those attending and several Atlanta leaders involved in the education field.
The three panelists that were invited to field questions from the students and faculty in attendance were David Jernigan, Executive Director for the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) of Metro Atlanta; Jerri Nims Rooker, Director of the Center for an Educated Georgia; and Kim Seoudy, Georgia Recruitment Manager for Teach for America. The goal of the program was to promote an awareness and understanding of the issues faced by the American education system.
“We wanted to get people engaged initially via the film and let the panelists bring it back to a more tangible level,” said Haley Gillett, Project Coordinator for the screening and discussion and a fourth-year PUBP major. “Having members of the community as speakers made it more real for us as students to get involved as advocates.”
GT Roosevelt Institution leadership also sought to begin a dialogue that could lead to tangible solutions to current problems in the education system. The panel first fielded several rounds of questioning from President of the GT Roosevelt Institution Chris Esposo and then engaged in a general discussion with all those attending.
“We need rigorous thinkers like the people here at Tech to form cross-collaborative partnerships to make meaningful change,” Esposo said. “Tech’s students aren’t usually exposed to these social issues, but from them we can gain insight that is not found in our regular course work.”
Waiting for Superman, released last year, documents the many flaws that can be found throughout the American educational system and explores both the efficacy and downfalls of potential solutions thereof.
“Either kids are getting stupider every year, or something is wrong in the education system,” said Geoffrey Canada, President of the Harlem Children’s Zone and prominent voice throughout the movie. “The problem is our schools haven’t changed, but the world around them has.”
Much to the surprise of the panelists, who admitted that they were initially expecting to be answering questions in front of a room full of PUBP and other non-engineering majors, members of the audience spanned the range of majors and areas of interest.
For example, Henning Blunck, a German exchange-student seeking his Master’s degree in Industrial Engineering, said he was curious as to how the problems faced by the American system compared to those faced in Germany and throughout the rest of Europe.
“The correlation between where you come from and what you learn in school is striking, both here and back in Germany. We must overcome the resistance to change that comes primarily from those who prefer the current system,” Blunck said.
Ultimately, the panelists stressed the idea that one of the easiest and most effective solutions to the system’s many problems is to find motivated and capable teachers.
“The challenge is to find people who could do anything, who would be at the front of their chosen field, and get them passionate about teaching,” Seoudy said.