Education is more of a focus in this election cycle than it has been for many years, but education advocates still aren't satisfied with the increased attention from Romney and Obama; they are demanding more. Adeshina Emmanuel, writing for the New York Times, reports that on Wednesday tourists could find 857 desks arrayed on the National Mall near the Washington Monument. The desks represent the 857 students who drop out of high school in the US every hour every school day. The display was arranged by the College Board to remind presidential candidates that education is a major priority in this election.
During the display College Board volunteers were gathering signatures via iPad for an online petition that read:
"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."
More than 22,000 signatures were gathered and the display was part of the College Board's âDon't Forget Ed' campaign.
Lee and Gina Gloscoe of Nebraska, both 48, were strolling on the Mall on Wednesday with their three daughters when they saw the display.
"Of course we're wondering why would they be out in the middle of the hot, burning sun," said Mrs. Gloscoe, a speech pathologist. "When we got here and read the sign, it was quite striking. It gives a good visual of the number of kids who are dropping out of school."
The display is the work of Adam Hollander from New York, who is executive creative producer for Brand Marketers. He wanted to give people a way to relate to the abstract number of 857, saying that it didn't really make sense until you were able to see it. Now people have seen it and the visual representation appears to have worked in making them connect to the heart breaking reality behind the abstract number.
"I think it's really bad that we have enough money to fund wars and we have enough money to fund huge projects, but we don't have enough money to keep kids in school," said Hannah Getto, 13, of Michigan.
It is unknown whether Romney or Obama saw the display, but if people who did contact them the message will get through and they are likely to respond by spending more time addressing the issue. At the moment education is mostly talked about in the context of the country's economic problems, but it is an important topic in its own right.