A teacher in a very tough inner-city school once told me it's important to remember that all children want to learn and all children can learn. No matter how difficult it might be to manage a classroom, or to get a child's attention, children really do want to learn.
As we begin a national conversation on NBC about America's broken schools, I hope we all keep that in mind. There will be a natural inclination to point fingers and assign blame but, the truth is, as a nation we all probably share some responsibility for what's happened to our schools and to our children. Their failure is our failure.
For decades we've been warned that our schools were headed in the wrong direction. In 1983, when Ronald Reagan was president, the National Commission on Excellence in Education issued a startling report called, "A Nation At Risk." It found poor academic performance at nearly every level and issued a disturbing word of caution that the education system was "being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity."
Today statistics show, as a nation, we did not heed that warning. Among 30 developed countries American students now rank 24th in math and 17th in science.
Sixty eight percent of eight graders cannot read at grade level.
It's time to change this and we can.
I'm excited because as the education correspondent for NBC NEWS, I've had a chance to see that there are great schools, great programs, and great teachers all across this country. From PS 124 in Queens, New York to Balboa High School in San Francisco, California, positive change is taking place in America's public schools. But not fast enough. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says we have pockets of excellence that are the exception which America must turn into the rule.
This is a subject worthy of everyone's attention. The truth is America cannot continue to be a world class nation with an uneducated or under-educated population.
I hope you will tune in to NBC's Education Nation. Watch, listen and join the conversations this week and beyond. It's important that you hear the depth of the problem but, we'll also make certain that you hear about what can be done to fix what's wrong with our schools. We really do know what works. But understand, there is no magic or quick solution. It took decades to get in this mess and it will take time to turn it around.