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Last spring, my school went through the accreditation process. We did well, but were tasked with creating a unified mission and vision that all staff, students and community members were aware of.

When we went about the process of creating this at the beginning of the school year, my peers and I had the interesting experience of deciding where our focus should be. With a wide variety of experience and passions, each person came to the table with a different bias. The only reason we were successful in our task was because we had a common goal.

This process called to mind a clip I saw from HBO’s show The Newsroom. In this clip, Jeff Bridges’ character lambasts the idea that America is the greatest country on earth.

Leonard Pitts explored this theme further in his compelling commentary, which responds to Bridge’s character’s argument. Rather than focusing on the cynical aspects of the speech, Pitt’s provides hope in his notion that “the potential of [greatness] lies in America’s endless capacity for reinvention.”

According to Pitt’s claim, the problem isn’t in our potential as a country, but in the fact that we are without a unified purpose or goal. If we are to live up to our self-promotion, we need to align around a common goal. So what will it be?

Obviously, my bias as a teacher is very deeply planted. When I think of what needs to be accomplished to help our country live up to its self-made hype again, I look to the education system and its potential, not just to impact the future but to be innovative and exciting.

There are so many groups who claim to have a similar vision for the future of the education system when in reality their actions work against each other. What would it be like if we all focused on accomplishing the same goal? What if we decided that making sure all of our students had equitable opportunity to learn and be prepared for whatever comes after high school?

Public school used to be the great equalizer — what if it could be again?

What if unions, policymakers, teacher voice groups, district officials and parents banded together to create innovative and creative solutions for making sure our kids were prepared for the future? What if all educational stakeholders set our students’ success as our goal — what steps would we need to take to attain this lofty vision?

One of the reasons I love my job is that I get to recognize and nurture potential in the students that come into my classes. The U.S. education system has great potential, too. Perhaps it’s time that we look to nurture it as well.

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