This past weekend, I attended the Edvant Expo (an education expo) at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Much like the education system in our country, the Expo was a flop.
From the empty parking lot to the echoing of my footsteps through the vacant convention center, I should have known to turn around and go home, but curiosity kept me trekking forward.
I finally reached an area with a check-in booth and walked up to the “media check in” attendant, who was busy conversing with a friend. (Note to attendant: when you are working the media booth, you probably want to be nicer to the press personnel checking in, since you most likely will end up in their story.) The attendant asked three times if I was sure I was press. I told her I was sure that I was press. She checked her list while I dangled my identification in front of her. Finally, she found my badge and slammed it down on the counter with a “Here!” and continued conversing with her friend. What? No swag? No reusable shopping bag? I could handle the unwelcoming attendant, but not the lack of swag. I kindly asked her to point me in the direction of the expo. She smacked her lips. “Um, behind you,” she said, condescendingly.
What was behind me surely did not resemble an expo of any sort, but more of a low budget Purim carnival at a small synagogue, with “dentist-office-treasure-box” type prizes that end up broken or in the trash long before you even make it back home. But there were no pony rides or face painting booths in sight from what I could tell as I entered.
I headed inside Hall G of the L.A. Convention Center, which was the size of a large school gym with only a few booths near the front. There were less than a dozen people walking around in circles, perhaps trying to see if there was anything they could get out of the ten dollars they threw away at the entrance to get in.
It was as if our education system was staring me in the face. Can anyone say, “Lack of funding or care?” “Budget cuts?” There were a total of approximately ten booths, perhaps twenty at most, but who was counting? I was too busy thinking about how I would spend the rest of my day now that I had blocked out a chunk of time to use here. Sadly overrated.
There were four “booths” worth mentioning, however. The first booth I came across on my way in was Whole Foods. Whole Foods has never failed me yet. They have been at almost every convention I have gone to thus far (maybe I just choose the conventions with natural foods). They were giving away bananas and had a bicycle hooked up to power a blender to make smoothies, which would have been a great idea if there were actually people there to see it. Further in there was someone under a “Radio Disney” sign leading a few children in a “Hokey Pokey” type dance within hula hoops. This was probably more music education the few kids were getting here than they did in their own schools (if they were part of LAUSD, of course). Then there was the Los Angeles Zoo (with animals taken out of their natural habitats and caged in for our delight. I don’t know how I feel about that one, but we will leave that for another article). The last booth that stood out for me stood out not because it was a great idea, but because I wondered what they were thinking. “A1 Traffic School.” Was that what they meant by education? Educating teens and adults about getting out of traffic tickets?
The booths were random and I was disappointed. I expected educational resources, materials, books, games, supplies, teachers, speakers and lecturers. I was expecting McGraw-Hill. I am always expecting more from education and wind up disappointed.
I am an LAUSD survivor myself. During the time I attended, however, music scholarships were just as important as football ones. Classes were not overcrowded, however teachers were still overworked, underpaid and bitter. There were budget cuts that required that my high school P.E. coach be my Social Studies teacher and Drivers Ed teacher as well. (All in the comfort of her too-tight around the waist sweats and yellow pit-stained tees she must have had since she was in high school herself.) Still…things were a little better. Despite my LAUSD education, I went on to receive my Masters degree and teach. I became further disappointed with the limitations set upon teachers by the system and the poor quality of education. My younger cousins in Israel were learning things in high school that were not yet offered to me until my college years, go figure.
The expo was just a reminder of how poor the state of education is in our country. It is true that “No child is left behind,” but no child is able to advance, either. Mediocrity rules our schools. Expos? Our nation?
The expo was not all bad, however. It did reaffirm my decision to home school my own son. There are many opportunities to learn, just not through our education system or at our education expos, but through our own volition.