A mind is a terrible thing to waste
Posted on Tuesday, February 12th 2013 at 10:41 am
There is little doubt that we have an education problem in America. Fingers are pointing and wagging while our children suffer and our nation loses ground. As China and India rapidly overtake America in equipping the next generation with the education and skills to accede the world throne we are quibbling instead of rationally addressing the problem. I see 3 things we need to do to regain our place in the world:
1. Parents need to be engaged. Dropping our kids off to school and expecting the school to turn them into educated and equipped young adults is akin to dropping your kids off to Sunday school and expecting your kids to become committed Christians. Values are better caught than taught. You may be familiar with Dr. Benjamin Carson who recently spoke at the Presidential Prayer Breakfast. Dr. Carson is African-American born into abject poverty. His mother had a 3rd grade education and worked as a house keeper to provide for her 2 boys. Even though she didn't know how to read she insisted that her boys read 2 books a week and limited their TV viewing. Dr. Carson became a world renowned neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins and his brother is an engineer. Parents must be engaged in order for kids to succeed.
2. We must reform our school system. The movie "Waiting for Superman" made this point clearly. Michelle Rhee (featured in the movie) took on the education establishment when she was the Chancellor of the Washington D.C. school system. D.C. "invests" the third highest per student in America yet has one of the worst records for student performance. She instituted "radical" reforms including firing administrators, workers and teachers (some had hit children, had sex with kids or missed 78 days of school). This upset the educational establishment even though test scores began to rise and graduation rates improved. Michelle believes we must put the students before the teachers, administrators and unions and encourage school competition (charter schools), vouchers for private school and reform in our public schools.
3. We need a 2 track education system. Nearly half of the kids that start college don't finish and most kids are majoring in things that don't matter. Unless you are majoring in the hard sciences, math or engineering you're probably wasting time and money. In Europe, Japan China and India children are assessed at a young age and then put on either a college track or a technical track. My son recently got out of the Marines and has been going to Pima on the GI Bill. He has decided he doesn't want to finish college instead he wants to be an Electrician. Did you know the average age of Electricians and other skilled workers is 53? We have held up a college degree and demeaned mechanics, electricians, carpenters and plumbers so now we will have a shortage. We also have short changed a generation of young people that could be gainfully and happily employed and are sitting on the sidelines.
We live in a society that encourages blaming others rather than accepting personal responsibility. That's how lawyers make their living. We need to encourage parents to take responsibility for their kids' education and hold them accountable. We also need to embrace reforms in our public schools. And college isn't for every kid and not every degree is equal. We need skilled workers and should applaud kids with the aptitude to pursue these honorable professions. A mind is a terrible thing to waste, but not all minds are the same. Celebrating this kind of diversity is a good thing for our nation's future.