During this week of the course we were encouraged to read letters that were written to the future president by students around the nation. Students chose a topic to focus on for their letter and wrote to the future president about why their chosen issue was important. This plays well into the idea of interest in Connected Learning because each student was able to write about a topic that was of utmost importance to them. This week I have found 5 letters that not only are of interest to me, but also speak to the ideas of equity and furthering equity within the classroom and the country.

1.) Stand Up for Women – Zoe Lynn Blake

This letter discusses the importance of equal rights for women. I find this topic especially important to talk about in my own life (being a woman) but also in my classroom because I am so passionate about STEM. Often times girls get turned off by math and science by middle school, seeing those subjects as more “male” oriented. I think that gender equality is extremely important to embrace in our culture so that girls can stop seeing math, science and STEM as “risks” and rather subjects that they can be just as successful in as their male counterparts.

2.) The True Definition of Feminism – Isabelle Lutter

Along the same lines as Women’s Rights comes the idea of feminism. This letter discusses the issues of feminism and why it is still so important today. One thing I loved about this letter is that it addresses the negative stereotypes of “feminism”. That in order to be a “feminist” you must hate men and think that women are better than men. However this is not true of most (if not all) feminists. Feminists simply believe in equal rights for both women and men. While this seems like an obvious concept to most, it is still something I have to remind my female students of, even in 5th grade. Many of the girls in my classroom shy away from math and science because that is a “male” field. Others avoid playing basketball on the courts at recess because that is “for the boys”. What I want to instill in my female students is that they deserve the same opportunities as men and that it is not “unladylike” to fight for those opportunities.

3. The Real Cost of College Tuition – Abigail G

This was another letter that struck a chord with me. I find the rising cost of college tuition to be an undue burden on so many young people, and it is often a hindrance to ensuring equity within the education system. I myself am still paying off my undergraduate tuition costs, even 7 years later. I am a teacher on a meager salary and my student loans still continue to linger, forcing me to sometimes re-think where it was that I attended college and cost-analyze my decisions at age 18. I attended a private university with a very small, yet excellent education program. I absolutely loved my time at my college and I felt I grew a lot both intellectually (from my  education classes) as well as emotionally (being in the south, far from home, surrounded by a whole new culture) while at school. I even was fortunate to have met my husband while we were both undergrads. However, even though I had an amazing college experience, with the amount of debt I continue to pay off each month, I wonder whether or not my decision to attend the college of my choice was worth it. While  I was fortunate to even have that choice to attend college, and it forever changed my life, the cost of my decision still somewhat haunts me as I pay off my loans every month. As fortunate as I was to have a choice, if we think about equity, many people don’t even have a choice about where they attend school. With tuition being such a huge factor in the decision of where to attend college, many students are forced to choose a school that may not be what they need, but only what they can afford. I think if we want to begin to reach equity within the higher education system, tuition has to be lowered so that all students can pursue their futures and careers of choice, regardless of what their financial background is.

4. College: Just Because You’re Rich Doesn’t Mean You’re Smart – Hannah D.

This letter brought up another idea of equity within the education world. Often those that can “afford” a better education are the ones who actually get the better education. How is this fair? How are we to ever level the playing field and create equity within the realm of education if those who have little don’t have access to the same quality education as those that happen to be born in to much? I would love to see more colleges and universities (and even private high schools) offer more scholarships to attend their institutions so that more students have access to the same quality of education, regardless of the situation in which they are born in to.

5. Standardized Testing – Brittany N.

As always, this issue is one that lies near (but not dear) to the heart of every educator. While many educators either fall in to one camp (more testing) or the other (less testing), it is certainly an issue that all teachers have strong feelings about. While I am extremely against the amount and expansiveness of the testing I am required to give to my students, it is always interesting to hear from the students themselves about just how little value they also see in being tested. While many students just don’t like testing because they find it “boring” or “tedious”, Brittany brings up the stronger points of stress to students, testing leading to a decrease in instructional time  and their true connection/indication of how students will perform in the real world. It is comforting to read that teachers are not alone in the fight against standardized testing, and that the future generation will help us continue to fight the good fight.