Last Friday the Black blogosphere erupted in praise for Chicago Urban Prep for having a 100 percent graduation and college matriculation for the third year in a row. To me the headline was a well deserved highlight in a week dominated by the latest news in the killing of Trayvon Martin, and what seemed like months of doom and gloom headlines on the education front that went little recognized. Some of those headlines included calling higher education the next debt bomb and urged Presidential candidates to make education a focus of their campagins.
One candidate has been vocal about education. The conservative family values candidate. Rick Santorum. But he's been promoting education in terms of home schooling, which may not work for everyone, and in terms of alternatives to college because that of course makes you a snob and indoctrinates you with the most liberal of all liberal ideologies. Not that that happened to Mr. Santorum who has three degrees two of them post-graduate. But who am I to throw stones at his glass house.
Snarky comments on snobbery aside it is worth pointing out the United States has a serious education problem from pre-k on up the ladder to our most esteemed universities. The problem is access to quality and affordable education is neither equal nor always affordable which makes the future of our country one that looks more like a developing nation where there remains a great divide between the better half and the other versus one where all roads lead to the middle and life there is not bad; not bad at all.
Right now the United States is improving its high school graduation rate. Up to 75.5 percent in 2009 according to a report released last month by America's Promise Alliance; the group founded by former Secretary of State Colin Powell. The report also finds the number of dropout factories fell by a third from 2,007 in 2002 to 1,550 in 2010. This progress will help the United States and those students who are graduating in high school in higher numbers.
The report says:
"On average, high school graduates earn $130,000 more over their lifetimes, compared with peers who drop out of school ... Transforming just one student from dropout to graduate would yield more than $200,000 in higher tax revenue and savings for the government over the course of that person’s life.
Economists say that over the next decade, the U.S. workforce will need 22 million college graduates but the country is expected to fall short by 3 million."
If we focus on the fact the United States is going to fall short on the 22 million college grads needed to power the U.S. workforce over the next decade we see a bump in high school grads is just a drop in the proverbial bucket. We're trying to play catch up to a point where we should have been two decades ago and are therefore still running way behind on where we need to be today.
A kick in high school graduation is great but the country also needs a kick in college graduation; something that won't happen if college becomes an unattainable dream because of the cost of entry.
If parents are facing punishment for stealing a better education at the grade school level how then are parents supposed to help their children enter into the best colleges if they don't receive a jump on the education game. Beyond that if a better education is forever associated in this country with private schools that require tuition or charter schools that turn a lottery into an agonizing life choice of succeed or die, than how are parents shut out by both price and luck supposed to help their children compete in this global economy.
Right now my alma mater, The Florida State University, has been given the power to raise tuition as much as 30 percent every year for the next decade. Who can afford that? I can barely afford what I'm still paying for in my tuition in student loans and I graduated college four years ago.
This country is not taking a serious look at education from any angle. In a presidential election where the economy remains the most important factor -- beyond all the war on women silliness (though legitimate) and gimmicky headline making statements, promises, and campaign slogan try ons -- it baffles me to know the candidates aren't talking about how to make the ailing economy better by improving our education system.
In fact the probable Republican nominee and his recent endorser, Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan seek to do more harm than good to the economy they want to uplift by slashing the budget for pell grants. Like really? Who does that? You can't repair the economy from the top down. It does not, will not and most importantly has not worked. But the right seems to think the way to get beyond the gatekeeper to the one percent is to endorse values anti-thetical to even being able to dream the American dream.
Plainly put without higher education there is no future. America will no longer be the titan in the world it is, I don't care how strong our military is. If we don't invest in education for our children we might as well hold up the white flag and acknowledge a superiority defeat to Japan, China, India, Brazil and other nations who put their children first.
In the aforementioned article about Presidential candidates speaking out on education, editorialist Joel Klein wrote:
"New research shows that only one-quarter of America’s 52 million K-12 students perform on par with the average performance of the world’s five best school systems — which are now in Singapore, Hong Kong, Finland, Taiwan and South Korea. Even worse is U.S. performance in advanced achievement in math and science, the best predictor of the engineering and scientific prowess that will drive future growth. Sixteen countries produce at least twice the percentage of advanced math students we do, according to research from Harvard and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The United States spends more on schools than most wealthy nations as a share of GDP yet ranks in the middle to the bottom of the pack on international comparisons. McKinsey estimates that the cost of this achievement gap vs. other nations is up to $2 trillion a year — the equivalent of a permanent national recession."
If the words "permanent national recession" don't have you shaking in your skivvies I don't know what will. But maybe it's this... We as a country, a collective, will keep paying more and more for education until we are well into our golden years. We will possibly be bankrupted by said payments and at the end of it all we won't be able to take pride in the return on our investment because we simply won't have one. We will have wasted money on a good cause but without any follow through because quite frankly The War on Education isn't as sexy a headline as The War on Women or The War on Religion or Anything but Education... Make It Stop... Aah!
1. Is it too late to have a sincere conversation about education in America?
2. Is there a way to close the global achievement gap?
3. Does any Presidential candidate have a plan to restore our education system