Andrea Mitchell Stands Behind NBC's Education Nation
by andrea mitchell
photograph by nbc news
Andrea Mitchell hosts a CEO panel about workforce readiness as part of
the Education Nation “On the Road” tour stop in Chicago
Fall is my favorite time of year. It is prime time for political campaigns and new fashions, and it marks the beginning of the school year. Even as a child, I loved the autumn colors and the crunch of leaves under my feet, the scramble to buy notebooks and pencil boxes and textbooks.
For the past year, NBC’s Education Nation, a multiplatform commitment to fostering a national dialogue about the crisis in our schools, has rekindled my early love of the classroom. But for public-school kids today, the differences between my childhood and theirs are profound.
An Early Start
It was in the public schools of my hometown, first in New York City then in a nearby suburb, that I first experienced the joy of writing and gathering information—in other words, reporting. By the sixth grade, I was coanchoring the morning announcements on the public address system: “Good morning, boys and girls, this is Andrea Mitchell from the principal’s office.” After winning a schoolwide competition, I wrote a column for the education page of our local newspaper. There was so much more: In the first grade, a music teacher put a pint-size violin in my hands and started teaching me how to play; another teacher took our class to the Metropolitan Opera. Those early experiences ignited a lifelong love affair with music. (If I had been a better violinist, perhaps there now would be one fewer reporter to annoy politicians.)
How many kids in today’s schools still have this kind of access to music and art, or to afterschool activities like a school newspaper and a literary magazine? Often these are considered “extras” that expire with the first budget cuts. If not for that early training, encouraged by engaged teachers and my parents, I might never have joined the radio station at the University of Pennsylvania—initially, to host a music program, until the pull of politics proved irresistible.
The Joy of Learning
Most children entering our public schools start with the same eagerness I had as a child. But by the time they reach fourth grade, the excitement of learning is squeezed out of them. They quickly fall behind kids in more education-intensive countries like Finland, Singapore and China. Those who stick it out only until they graduate from high school will rarely have the earning potential they would enjoy if they went on to complete college; they are unprepared for the jobs of the future and forever denied the joy of feeling passionate about their work.
Inspired by my friend Alma Powell, I have joined the board of America’s Promise Alliance to help give our kids a better future. In some small way, I hope being involved in mentoring programs and shining a light on what works during our NBC News broadcasts might help other children experience the joy and anticipation I once felt, walking to school on a crisp fall day.
Celebrating the White House Correspondents’ Association’s annual dinner at Carnegie Library.