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Editorial: Too Cool For Old-Fashioned School

For this week’s issue, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to interview Nikhil Goyal, Syosset High School senior and educational reformer; I was tempted there to write “budding educational reformer,” but given the fact that he’s already written a book and speaks to experts in all realms of education on a daily basis, I think it’s safe to say he’s already there.

When we spoke over the phone, he had just gotten off the plane on the West Coast, presumably for one of his many speaking engagements. I tried to imagine myself in his position at that age, and found I couldn’t do it; even as a “good” student, at 17 years of age, I was still concerned with deciding who I wanted to be when I grew up. It would never have occurred to me, as it obviously did to Nikhil, that I didn’t have to reach a certain age before getting started on anything.

One Size Does Not Fit All: A Student’s Assessment of School is a bold book; the kind of book you don’t necessarily have to be young and virtually fearless to write, but it probably helps. I found I didn’t agree with all of Goyal’s suggestions for how to fix our struggling public educational system, but his assessment of virtually everything we’re doing wrong is absolutely on the nose.

If you pick up a copy of the book, you may take issue with some of his bolder claims—maybe even to the point of anger—but you won’t be able to deny the basic argument of the book, which is that education in this country is due for a radical change, and making students fill in an ever-increasing supply of testing bubbles on a scantron isn’t the answer; merely a painful symptom of a much larger disease. Goyal quotes Henry David Thoreau at one point, and while I don’t know how Thoreau would have felt about modern education (though he might have run back into the woods for a few years rather than deal with it), I’ll bet Thoreau would have approved of Goyal’s book. It’s heavy with the weight of difficult, but necessary truths.