WASHINGTON — Emmy Award-winning actor LeVar Burton, who met with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in Washington to discuss education technology, told The Daily Caller that the U.S. “can’t afford to sacrifice another generation” to “bureaucratic politics.”
TheDC conducted a video interview with Burton, who hosted the PBS series “Reading Rainbow” for 25 seasons, at the annual Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) “Gift of Reading” gala in the nation’s capital.
“We have an amazing advantage right now in that we have developed technology that is so sexy, so engaging for kids,” said Burton, the Master of Ceremonies for RIF’s dinner at the Mayflower Hotel.
“And it’s here and it’s ready and we can really revolutionize the way we educate our children with tablet computers, and I’m committed to doing whatever I can to speaking to whomever I can to send this signal — to pound this message home. Now is the time.”
“We can’t wait any longer,” Burton said. “We can’t afford to sacrifice another generation of American children to bureaucratic politics. We’ve got to get it done. The future, the health, the life — our nation depends on it and it’s just foolish to think or act otherwise.”
TheDC asked Burton what areas of education he thinks are not being focused on because of bureaucratic politics.
“The thing that’s been left behind are our kids, man. We’re not educating them,” he said. “We are failing them and, in turn, failing ourselves. And it’s just not okay, it’s not okay. We can do this — we’re America, aren’t we? But we’ve just stopped focusing on it.”
“All we need to do is marshal the will, and the will of the people used to be enough to get it done in America.”
According to RIF, there is “one book for every 300 children in low-income neighborhoods,” and 32 percent of students in fourth grade read at a “proficient level.”
Childhood literacy has always been a “concern” for Burton, whose mother was an English teacher. He stresses that it is “impossible” for the federal government to fix the U.S. education system’s problems on its own.
“I think this current administration, God, has had its hands full trying to get a lot of stuff done in the face of policies that were enacted and things that we did in the last administration,” Burton said. It’s not like starting from scratch. It’s like coming in as a relief pitcher in the seventh inning and the guy that’s heading to the dugout has six runs posted on the board, and so these past four years it’s been a lot of clean up. I don’t think they’ve really had an opportunity to enact a lot of the vision that was so alive when the president got elected.”
“It’s not about division. It’s not about politics. My concern is how do we come together? How do we get this engine called Congress to function, and I’m not expecting government to do it all. It’s impossible and it’s clear that it’s not going to happen, that ship has sailed. It’s got to be a public-private partnership and the entrepreneur class has to be incentivized to get involved.”
“And like I said, we’ve got the ability — we have the technology. There is the need, where’s the will?”