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Wonder Boy Nikhil Goyal Advocates Educational Reform

Sam Dorn |
October 3, 2012 | 3:26 p.m. PDT


Nikhil advocates students taking a more active role in their education. (Richard Lee, Creative Commons)
Nikhil advocates students taking a more active role in their education. (Richard Lee, Creative Commons)

Nikhil Goyal is the author of “One Size Does Not Fit All: A Student’s Assessment of School.” He has been featured in The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Huffington Post, and has made appearances on a variety of news programs, including Fox and Friends, Fox Business: Varney & Co. and NBC Nightly News. This is quite an impressive résumé for anyone, but the kicker? He’s only 17 years old.

Full disclosure: Nikhil and I have known each other for a couple of years, dating back to our time together in the Junior State of America, a political debate and activism group. I went on to college at the University of Southern California; he published a book and has traveled the world advocating for changes in education policy in the United States. And I thought passing Spanish was an accomplishment.

In his book, Goyal draws upon his own experiences as a student, as well as discussions with notable individuals such as Diane Ravitch (a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education), Frank Bruni (an op-ed columnist with The New York Times), and Noam Chomsky (probably the most integral figure in modern linguistics). Says Goyal:

“I decided to write a book because I wanted to compile almost thirteen years of frustration with my experience in school. I also desired to put forth a student perspective on education. Simply put, students haven't been offered opportunities to give their voice, which is wrong and very inappropriate.“

The book focuses on what Goyal sees as some of the problems of the education system, the greatest of which is that: “the model of schooling is ancient. Public education remains one of the only institutions in America that looks and works the same as a century ago.” One such example Goyal points out is the concept of grading. The system that is currently in use was invented in the late 18th century and has not had any significant reform since. That makes the concept of grading about as old as our Constitution (which has been changed 27 times)!

I asked Goyal what he would do if he were to become Secretary of Education (for the record, I would be entirely unsurprised to see him in that post at some point in the future). What would be his first action? “I would call on Congress to repeal No Child Left Behind, abolish Race to the Top, and commence bringing together all the stakeholders in education to frame national guidelines.” While Goyal accepts the good intentions of No Child Left Behind, he feels that the legislation led to an explosion in testing and a narrowing of curriculum. One thing that should be pointed out: Goyal consistently refers to all who are impacted by the education system as “stakeholders,” a key component in his philosophy that students should be taking an active stance in their own education.

Goyal has traveled the world preaching that message, both in and out of the United States. As he describes, one of the more prominent such event was an invitation to speak in Qatar to parents and educators about reform.

I have been following Nikhil’s progress for the last couple of years and despite his numerous accomplishments, what is most impressive is his courage in standing up and demanding a voice in his own education. As for what Goyal plans to do next? “Leading a movement to bring some of the ideas in the book to life. Eventually, I desire to go into politics.” You’ve got my vote Nikhil!


Reach Contributor Sam Dorn here.



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