Thursday, March 19, 2009

Education Key to Economic Future

Once upon a time there was a kingdom in the land of make believe that was in economic ruin. The king went to his three advisers for ideas on how to solve the problem. One adviser said, “I think we should put money into helping the shop owners because if they go out of business the face of our kingdom will look bad. We don’t want boarded up shops in our village.” Another adviser stated, “I think we should help the lords, who oversee the working of the land and the production of goods. If the lords go under, our kingdom will be sunk.” A third adviser sat for a long time and then said. “I think we need to look at the situation carefully, and not go for the quick solution, rather put together a long range plan.” The king thought this was a good idea. So the king set out with the third adviser and went from place to place listening to ordinary people in focus groups from a broad range of socio-economic backgrounds and geographic areas. After listening to the people the king realized something profound. In the town square he made a speech which started: “If we don’t put money into education there will be no kingdom in the future.” The king decided that education needed to be the first thing funded in his stimulus package and this land over time became prosperous once again.

In fairy tales anything is possible and they usually end happily ever after. For a long time in the US we have ignored making connections between the economic crisis and our neglect of secondary education in our country. With dropout rates at staggering highs, and the US lagging behind in science, math and technology education, as well as learning foreign languages- how can we be surprised that our country is on shaky economic ground? Our current administration agrees that education is crucial to economic recovery. Unlike quick bailouts, education is not a band aid put on the economic crisis it is the long term cure!

This recovery is going to require hard decisions from the government. It is interesting that we bail out failing businesses but close failing schools. Perhaps the government should create a No Child Left Behind (NCLB) for business, let us call it No Worker Left Behind (NWLB), where corporations would be required, with no loopholes, to meet adequate yearly progress, to have transparency, and full accountability for their actions. The corporation, under NWLB, would be obligated to treat each employee with respect, give them the tools they need to do their job and support them so that they can achieve to their highest personal ability.

No one should stand on the sidelines during a time of crisis, everyone should try to find a solution. This economic crisis should be a reminder to all teachers and school administrators that our task is of the highest importance to our nation: To educate students to become upstanding citizens who will use their talents to make society a better place. The news lately is filled with examples of highly educated people who decided that greed is greater than the greater good of our nation. May I suggest that the money recouped from corporate bonuses be put into education to help failing schools and... require those who are greedy in corporate America to go back to school to learn how to play well with others.