It is time to take a second look at public education in America. Not individually or combatively, as we have so often in the past, but collectively and cooperatively. It is time we recognized that whatever our disagreements in the ongoing education debate, our goals, in the end, are the same. As a nation, we all cherish the ideals that every child should have access to a good education, that school should not only equip students for success in private life but also for participation in public life, and that our education system should help us to build strong and harmonious communities.

Yes, there is disagreement as to how well our schools are performing, and how they might be improved, but the fact that they are not living up to our ideals is undeniable. Critics from all across the political landscape have rightfully lamented our failure to provide our poorest and most disenfranchised children with a quality education. Our shortcomings in preparing students for the modern workplace are well known to the nation's job seekers and employers. Sparse voter turnouts, civic disengagement among young Americans, and students' lack of knowledge of our nation's history and institutions, are regularly lamented. We cannot sweep under the rug the fact that public school parents are frequently thrown into conflict with one another over everything from curriculum and methods to sex education and school prayer.

These are grave problems, yet we allow them to fester for generation after generation. The hostility and distrust that pervade education policy discussions have poisoned our ability to work together toward a solution. This cannot continue. Our children are too important.

So, please, let us forget our politics, put aside our preconceptions, and acknowledge a simple fact: The people working in education do so because they love children. And our dearest wish is to secure for the next generation an education worthy of that love. If we can manage to cease hostilities for a while, we just may be able to make that wish a reality.