857 Empty Desks at National Mall Symbolize Dropout Rates

College Board's art installation sends a powerful message to our presidential candidates.
College students gain signatures urging legislators to make education a national priority. (Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
Jun 20, 2012
Jenny Inglee is a Los Angeles-based journalist and the Education Editor at TakePart.

In case you didn't know that 857 kids drop out of school every hour of every school day, the nonprofit College Board has launched a massive art installation of empty desks to remind you.

The installation is set up at the National Mall and is part of the Don't Forget Ed movement urging U.S. presidential candidates to prioritize education in the presidential campaign.

Gaston Caperton, president of the College Board, wrote for The Huffington Post that while there's no serious dispute about our failing education system, "we have no consensus on how to fix it. President Obama and Governor Romney both have addressed aspects of our education problem, sometimes forcefully, but with so much of America's future riding on the state of our schools, there is much more for them to say."

According to a recent College Board poll, Americans in nine key swing states agree. More than two-thirds of voters consider education to be extremely important. Education ranked only behind jobs and economy as important issues in this year's election.

As part of the Don't Forget Ed campaign, the College Board has set up a petition to President Obama and Mitt Romney. The petition text says:

I am deeply disturbed about the state of education in America. Our schools are failing. Our students are struggling. And the statistics are only getting worse.

If you want my support, I need to hear more from you about how you plan to fix the problems with education. And not just the same old platitudes. I want to know that you have real, tangible solutions, and that once in office, you’re ready to take serious action.

I’ll be watching your acceptance speech at your party’s convention. Let me know that you’ve put education at the top of your to-do list. This election, Don’t Forget Ed.

Recently, both candidates addressed our education woes on the campaign trail. Last week in Cleveland, Obama said: "Now's the time to move forward and make sure we have the best-educated, best-trained workers in the world," and in May, Romney said America was in a "national education emergency."

How do you feel the candidates should address education in this year's election? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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