How are design and public education related?

Tuesday was quite an emotional roller coaster, but it ended on a high note. My professional practices class has a large project planned for later in the semester dealing with local public education. We watched The Lottery in class, and if you haven’t seen this documentary, I highly recommend you add it to your DVD queue. I can say this is the first time I’ve cried in class from watching a documentary (but I wasn’t the only one). The movie chronicles the public education system in Harlem and follows a few families as they await lottery day for several charter schools in their area. The film highlighted what I think is often a myth about lower income families: just because parents don’t have money doesn’t mean they don’t want better for their own children. Almost all of the the parents interviewed in the film said they wanted better experiences for their children than they had. In the end, only 2 of the children highlighted were selected for a charter school. I was so disheartening to see the sad faces of the children, who didn’t quite understand fully what was going on, but knew they hadn’t been picked.

I did say that the day ended on a high note, so now for the more enlightening part of the day. Our class was fortunate enough to hear the very inspiring Geoffrey Canada speak at our school. If you don’t know who Geoffrey Canada is or what he stands for, research him now! He is the founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone, where he promises to increase the graduation rates of children in Harlem, not only from high school, but graduation from college. One of the first things he said in his presentation was that if our nation doesn’t change our education, we will no longer continue to be a super power. He called for less blame on situational circumstances of kids and more accountability from teachers. He noted teachers should hold the same expectations for a child that a parent would hold; after all, they are getting paid to teach.

Conversations about tax dollars can be a hot topic, especially from community members who don’t have children and feel their tax dollars are better spent on areas other than education. Canada said, “Tax dollars are a decision we’ve made about our children.” I thought that was a good question to pose to our community: what are your tax dollars saying about the children in your community? Are you standing up for their future, and the future of your community? A question at the end of his presentation prompted Canada to call for business and community involvement in education. Uneducated children affect an entire community, not just parents and teachers. And this is where I got really excited because I feel this is where design can greatly impact education and community.

You might think college design students are far from a target audience who cares about public education, but most of us will someday have children of our own. What is most exciting to me working to make changes now that will affect our future children. I am beyond thrilled to see what the rest of this semester project has in store for our class, so stay tuned to this blog to follow what we are doing in the Chattanooga community.

Check out this TED Talks presentation from designer Emily Pilloton and how her designs are making an impact in her community:

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One thought on “How are design and public education related?

  1. […] school districts or specific schools of the area. But with the recent visit from eduction reformer Geoffrey Canada to UTC and our upcoming class project relating to public education, I wanted to know […]

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