"... The civilized women of the present century, with a few exceptions, are only anxious to inspire love, when they ought to cherish a nobler ambition, and, by their abilities and virtues, exact respect."
-Mary Wollstonecraft (A Vindication on the Rights of Women, 1792)
Watching the State of the Union speech is very nearly always a nice exercise in remembering all the American Ideals that make us Americans so... idealistic. However, at the same time, it is a good reminder that in America, our famous Ideals are not always present. The quality of education in America has fallen. I don't agree with all the BS about it being a "race" to be the best or that we should be in "competition" with other countries to have the smartest students (education is not a competition... it's a freaking universal right, okay?), but I do believe that the education system should be pushing itself to produce the best students possible. Not the best students in the world... just educate them.
Don't make education part of world leaders' pointless excuses to say, "My country is better than yours." Make education a priority because it's the right thing to do. Make education a priority because worldwide it leads to happier people, a higher GDP, more stable families, and more contributing citizens. Make education a priority because you believe in people.
Mary Wollstonecraft, an early British feminist, was very concerned with the education of women and girls because they were ignored by the people who ran society (upper class white men.) In turn, we should be concerned about the education of those students ignored by the people who run our societies. Obama promises to fix the heinous mistakes of No Child Left Behind, but we cannot just listen to his speech and nod along think that's it. We have to call our senators and representatives and demand that they support education. We must demand that they support legislation to help non-citizens studying in America. There are mentoring and tutoring programs all over the country that you can get involved in and help a child learn to read, help a middle schooler with their math homework, or help a low-income high school student study for the SATs. And of course, you can always get involved in helping students from other countries attain higher education as well. Better educated people across the country will lead to a more equitable society. Better educated people across the globe will lead to a better world. Doesn't everyone support that?