MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Next up on this special broadcast of our Twitter education forum, we'll remind you that we've already had conversations with policymakers, teachers and parents. So now we want to give the final words to those who I think we all agree, have the most at stake, the students. And we'd love to hear from the millions of students American students who are part of America's public education system. But we can't, so we're hearing from two.
Joining us now are Nikhil Goyal. He is a senior at Syosset High School. That's in Long Island, New York. He actually wrote a book on education reform titled "One Size Does Not Fit All." Also with us is Shakira Lockett. She is a graduate of Coral Gables Senior High School in Miami, and she is currently a student at Miami-Dade College.
Welcome to you both. Thanks so much for joining us.
NIKHIL GOYAL: Thanks for having me.
SHAKIRA LOCKETT: Thank you for having me.
MARTIN: You got the attention of a lot of policymakers, a lot of people who really care about this subject. So Nikhil, what is the one thing you would most want people to think about when they think about the world that you need as a student or what the world you just left or the world that you're still in as a student, what do you think that students most need?
GOYAL: Students most in need a voice because we've been shunned out of the debate. We've been left on the sidelines. I like to say in education reform there's two different tables: the kids' table and the adults' table and we need to combine those two together to really have a rich conversation with all the stakeholders present.
MARTIN: Shakira, what about you? You got the attention now of a lot of people who care very deeply about this subject. What would you most want them to know?
LOCKETT: I think that students need more help, more people there to support them, more hands-on training, let them know what they need to prepare for, let them know what they need to study for, that way they won't be lost in the real world.
MARTIN: You graduated from high school in 2008 and I understand that you have to take five remedial classes once you got to college, would had to have been expensive and time-consuming. Why do you think that is? Why did that happen? And do you think your school was broken?
LOCKETT: I think that with me math has always been a problem so by me going off to college and not knowing like really prepared about what's going to happen, everything became a total mess. I didn't understand anything and supposed to be on the test that I had to take to get into college, it was elementary math and I don't think it was elementary in all. Nothing I learned in high school, middle school, nothing prepared me for that test.
MARTIN: Now do you think that you got poor counseling or do you think you got poor instruction? What do you think is at the core of what happened to you?
LOCKETT: Sometimes I believe that it was me, but maybe if it would have been more hands-on, one-on-one, maybe I would have understand it more.
MARTIN: Hmm. And what was the consequence of your having to take all those remedial classes? I mean did it set you up behind like a year?
LOCKETT: I had to end up staying in college longer than I was supposed to. And it's cost me more. I've had to write letters to the financial aid advisers to helping to pay for the course because by me taking it over and over it became more expensive.
MARTIN: So you had to pay to learn what you should have learned for free in high school.
LOCKETT: Yes ma'am.
MARTIN: Or at least what your parents had paid for through their taxes.
MARTIN: OK. Now Nikhil, in your book you write that we need to stop making reforms, which is a word we hear a lot, and that we need a revolution. What do you mean by that?
GOYAL: I think we really need to start from scratch in the sense that the system really needs to be rebooted. We need to question every assumption by which it was based on. We have to get out of this industrial mindset where the education system really started in the 1800s and 1900s.
MARTIN: Well, tell me a little bit more. What would an excellent education system look like or what would an educational system that you think prepares students for the world now look like?
GOYAL: Yeah, an education system would include letting kids become the captains of their learning. So giving them some control, letting them shape and mold their education in many ways, letting them do projects and hands-on activities, and really bridging the gap between what goes on in the classroom and the real world.
MARTIN: Shakira, what about you? What do you think an excellent educational system would look like?
LOCKETT: I don't know if it's OK to quote Mr. Romney, but he said he thinks that education would be improved by having more teachers.
MARTIN: Didn't President Obama say the same thing?
LOCKETT: Yes. Yes.
MARTIN: Shakira, can I ask you this? You didn't find out that you were not college-ready until you got to college.
LOCKETT: Yes ma'am. The day I took the test I didn't know.
MARTIN: Why do you think you didn't find out until you already got there? I mean shouldn't there have been some signs along the way, you know, your SATs, you're something like that?
LOCKETT: Yes, I think there should have been some signs, some preparations, something to let me know that OK this test will be here and you need to study for this. There was no warning or anything. It was just a test when I went that day and that was it.
MARTIN: How do you feel now when you think back on your education, how do you feel about it? And how do you feel about the people who were in charge? I mean do you feel like they did the best they could or do you feel angry? How do you feel?
LOCKETT: I do feel angry about the cost and how it takes longer for you to graduate because you don't even know that the remedial classes doesn't count for your major. It's like you're going to school for no reason all over again.
MARTIN: Nikhil, what is the one thing you would most want people to think about? When you think about all the educators, teachers, administrators that you've interacted with over the course of your educational career to this point, how do you feel about them?
GOYAL: I think a lot of them are really stuck in the old mindset. There have been a few teachers, for example, my teacher Thomas Barela, he actually even wasn't my teacher in a formal class, he just we found each other to a club and he's inspired me. We basically have conversations almost everyday on politics and current affairs. And I want every kid to have a teacher like him in a sense that they continuously push them over and over again.
MARTIN: And what are your plans now?
GOYAL: So I'm going to be graduating from high school in January and from there I plan on taking about a year and a half off doing various projects and starting my organization, Learning Revolution, to bring some of the ideas in my book to life.
MARTIN: Wow. Shakira, what about you? What are your plans now?
LOCKETT: My plans now, I'm going to graduate this semester hopefully to go...
LOCKETT: Yes. Thank you so much. Hopefully to go off maybe to FAU or UCF to further my degree in mass communications, and hopefully I'll be the next Oprah Winfrey in this country.
MARTIN: OK. All right. Oh, good. Well, you can employ us too. Good. Great.
MARTIN: Keep a spot open for us.
Shakira Lockett is a student at Miami-Dade College. She is a graduate of Coral Gables Senior High in Miami. She was kind enough to join us from member station WLRN in Miami. Nikhil Goyal is a senior at Syosset High School. That's in Long Island, New York, and he was kind enough to join us from our NPR studios in New York.
Thank you both so much for joining us. Congratulations to you both on all you've accomplished so far. You made it, sort of, close.
LOCKETT: Thanks for allowing us to join you. I really appreciate the opportunity.
GOYAL: Thank you very much. Thank you very much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.