Shortly before President Barack Obama delivered the State of the Union on Tuesday night, comedian Bill Cosby joined with school choice advocates to discuss the “State of American Education.”
According to Cosby, the country can try as many education reforms as it wants but the real key is getting parents involved and concerned about their children’s education. Cosby added that additional funding is not the answer to America’s education woes.
“Cuts, cuts, cuts, that is what we hear, but education is not a thing that big bucks happens to be the answer [to]. The answer is — with education comes teaching children to respect and love questions, looking for the answer, reading,” he said, explaining that these responsibilities fall on the parents, teachers, and school officials.
Cosby demanded answers from Education Secretary Arne Duncan, asking why, with so much money going into the schools, the taxpayers still cannot get the value they put in. Instead of whining about cuts, he said, schools and towns should be looking for solutions outside the box.
“Okay — we know there are cuts, then let’s work with it. Let’s go to churches, find retired teachers who would like to join us in the basement of the church to work with the child,” Cosby said. “There are ways we can work around this and we have to talk and we have to move.”
The telephone press conference was moderated by Michelle Bernard, president of the Bernard Center for Women, Politics, and Public Policy. It was a part of the celebration of National School Choice Week, currently being recognized in all 50 states this week.
Education “is the key to achieving the American dream,” Bernard said to the audience. “One of the things that school choice does for people that live in low-income neighborhoods is it gives your child the ability to leave a school that is low performing — if you can get to a point where your dollars follow your child — and go to a school that is higher performing. When you introduce competition into the public school system, most studies show that schools start to do better when they are competing for students.”
National School Choice Week runs from Jan. 22-28 and is focused on empowering parents to get the best educational options for their children, “from encouraging increased access to great public schools, to public charter schools, magnet schools, virtual schools, private schools, homeschooling and more.”
Cosby wrapped up the conference with a personal anecdote about how his sixth grade teacher was instrumental in getting him on the educational straight and narrow.
“I am 74 years old, I’ll be 75 July 12. I stopped studying in 4th grade on my own, because I had a picture of what my life was like: We lived in the housing projects and I was not a sad kid, I just liked to play. And so I gave up and then I ran into this woman in 6th grade,” he said, explaining how none of the school kids wanted to have “this woman” as a teacher because she forced her students to read, do their work and re-do poorly completed homework.
According to Cosby, his mother was the one who sought out this teacher.
“For some reason, I wound up in the front seat directly in front of her desk,” he said. “When I graduated from 6th grade, I went from low grades to all A’s because this woman stayed on my case and she wrote on my report card, which I have today — this white Orthodox Russian woman, 4’11’’ — ‘I’m afraid that as William moves on to 7th grade’ — which was junior high school — ‘that if he does not have the same intervention, that he will slide back to his old ways.’”
“I am telling all you parents,” Cosby said. “You need more Mary B. Forchicks in the classroom.”