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Forbes’ “30 Under 30” in Education is Missing Actual Educators

Entrepreneurs, investors, and School Board members made the coveted list. But not teachers.

Forbes Magazine’s “30 Under 30” is a collection of do-ers and game-changers in their sphere of influence. Their class of 2018 is, divided into such categories as Hollywood & Entertainment, Art & Style, Energy, and Science, at least at first glance, no different. But their Education list — which features 30 people under the age of 30 who are on a warpath to radically change the way we educate our children — is missing something really important: actual educators.

Not a single person featured on the list teaches in a classroom. According to the Washington Post, the closest the list gets to actual educators is someone who works in administration in the Portland School District. The rest of the people on the list work in disruptive tech and other reformist educational companies. For example, the co-founders of Student Success Agency were honored. SSA is a platform that digitally connects students to “agents” via telephone and Internet to help them prepare for colleges. 

Another person on the list, Allyson Dias, is the program manager for the Thiel Fellowship. The Thiel Fellowship funds college dropouts to pursue their business ideas with $100,000 a year and community support. The program is great — it’s funded a lot of incredible ideas, and provides seed money to people who may not want to follow the beaten path a chance to succeed professionally. But it’s not exactly expanding access to education. 

Hilary Shirazi, the Senior Manager of Corporate Development at LinkedIn, is also on the list. LinkedIn is a networking website for professionals. Her inclusion on the list was largely because of her work at other companies in the education sphere and because she’s on the board member of the San Francisco Education fund, which gives grants to students and teachers in San Francisco’s school district. She undoubtedly does good work. But, it seems, she’s never spent time in an actual classroom. 

Teachers are, after all, the people who spend at least an equal amount of our time with our children as we do. They’re responsible for teaching them the basic skills and building blocks that will help them succeed in lower education. They are also increasingly underpaid, underappreciated, and working longer hours in professional development instead of in front of a classroom or in collaborative environments.

A lot of this has to do with politics — we are investing less and less in education, partly because of Great Recession economic policies. But we haven’t reversed the trend. The people trying to push investment in public education, like the authors of Cradle to Kindergarten who use science and public policy to argue that we need to invest more in early childhood schooling, weren’t honored. Couldn’t there have been a single educator on this list? 

None of this is to say that the people featured on this year’s “30 Under 30” in education aren’t important. It’s not even to say that they aren’t changing things in the education world. But the reality of the matter is that increasing access to online platforms and entrepreneurial programs for dropouts isn’t going to fix public education in the United States. Only investment will.