don’t forget ed.

via ssk

“If our schools fail, then so will everything else—from our economy to national security. Yet every four years, the issue of education is shockingly underplayed on the campaign trail.” – Gaston Caperton, College Board President.

While the past few weeks at UVA have been wholly centered upon the clandestine coup staged to force President Teresa Sullivan’s resignation, I am heartened by our community’s response and the swift action taken in order to stand up to the grave injustice inflicted upon our alma mater at the hands of a small percentage of wealthy alumni and a vindictive rector.

Indeed, in reading the news recently, I am further heartened at the wide array of grassroots campaigns, petitions, and installations cropping up throughout our country. One that is especially worth noting is the College Board’s “Don’t Forget Ed” campaign at the Washington Monument in D.C. urging our legislators and policy makers to regain focus on the education system during this election cycle.

According to the campaign, 857 students drop out of school every hour of every school day, meaning that roughly 1.2 million students will not graduate on time—if they ever graduate at all. This November 2011 report from the Alliance for Excellent Education highlights not only the social dangers of an increasingly under-educated subgroup of American youth through increased crime rates and substance abuse, but also the significant economic drain by way of increased reliance on government welfare and subsistence, higher unemployment rates, and lower earned incomes (thereby leading to lower tax revenue).

In an election year overwrought with frenetic debate over the current state of our economy, it is frightening to realize how little attention is being paid to what is arguably our biggest determinant of long-term fiscal success: our students.

The College Board’s “Don’t Forget Ed” campaign could not have come at a better time as both sides of the party line engage in highly partisan “debate” that is little more than grown-up name calling. Our nation is clearly gearing up for a major political battle and the attack ads are already playing in most of our homes. While the economy is clearly the major player in this election cycle, we must not forget that the current state of our economy is a symptom of larger, more insidious problems within our policy. Thus, through grassroots support and advocacy, we can demonstrate that–in order to address economic issues–we must address educational issues. Otherwise our “solutions” are temporary at best.

I urge you to check out the College Board’s campaign and seek out ways to engage your own community. Here are a few more pictures from the “Don’t Forget Ed” Facebook page. It really is a visually striking installation and a fantastic way to illustrate a fairly abstract problem in a very concrete way.

reclaiming the salon.

The notion of gathering in order to exchange ideas is certainly nothing new; from the 17th century French salons to your local Book Club, interaction and discussion is built into the very concept of “society.” However, in our ever-widening focus on globalization, it can often feel overwhelming to seek the sort of connection we have come to crave.

While many may argue that the internet has fed this desire with its provision of a nearly infinite number of websites, message boards, chatrooms, and blogs (admittedly, this one included!), our Worldwide Web lacks a crucial component: tangibility. What distinguishes physical gatherings from their virtual counterparts are the nuances we receive through experiencing ideas and interactions not only with our minds, but also with our senses.

Enter Studio 400’s WHITE installation, where 20 architecture students transformed a California studio into a grown-up jungle gym in order to ” bring spatial interest and social interaction to the gallery.” In the long-standing debate of “form over function”—or was it “function over form?”—the WHITE installation seamlessly intertwines the two, reconfiguring how we view our gathering space. In this piece, the metaphor is obvious: we are members of a network.

By offering a tangible representation of our current framework of socialization en masse, we are able to step outside of the forest and comparatively evaluate the trees. Online, our networks often allow us to be anonymous—thereby unaccountable for our words and opinions. In person, we are reminded of not only our own personhood, but of others’ as well.

I see a great deal of symbolism in the WHITE installation, namely in that an individual can–quite literally–get caught up in the net. Whereas our computers offer innumerable opportunities for discussion and self-expression, it can be easy to neglect the connective aspect of an online community without a palpable reminder. It is equal parts intellectual and sensory: one complements the other. By acknowledging the necessary duality of both components in our socialization, we are able to connect both to ourselves and, in turn, ourselves to our fellow community.