Education is the hero, not ‘villain’

Keith Kaczmarek

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In these tough economic times, federal and state governments have reduced funding for schools by record amounts and for some reason we don’t seem to think that this is going to catch up to us at some point. In a time of famine, the last thing you eat are the seeds, so the last thing we should be doing is under-funding education.

The children of today become the taxpayers of tomorrow, and in an economy where the middle class is vanishing and we are increasingly left with a highly educated elite and an under-educated poverty class, we should be encouraging people to join the elite rather than join the under-class. Even the “gray vote,” those at retirement ages whose children have already been educated, should value the educational system because it is the taxes of the young and employed that pays for Social Security and Medicare benefits.

The problem is that education has been under attack for years. Various politicians and public figures have claimed that our system is failing, that we are falling behind other nations, and that our teachers are over-paid and underperforming. Legislation like No Child Left Behind has been enacted to enforce arbitrary standards and requirements with little recognizable effect, and the debate for charter schools still rages.

I have to ask, when did education become the villain in our national debate?

On one hand education is recognized for its role in creating the future of our nation, yet people seem to think that we can somehow educate our children on a shoestring budget.

We somehow think we can get trained professionals to grow our economy without student-loan programs or grants, magically believing that 21st century workers somehow can pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and pay the tens of thousands of dollars required to get an education.

American teachers, even with their occasionally generous health care packages, are still underpaid for workers with a job that requires a master’s degree. In many ways, education has become charity work; we certainly seem to expect it to survive on donations and fundraisers.

The rest of the world thinks we are crazy. They only sent students to high school who pass aptitude tests and have good grades, sending all others to trade schools. They pay higher teacher wages to attract the best educators and they respect education more than Americans.

Because of this, it is no wonder that they beat us on every objective benchmark for student achievement. Considering our self-declared title of “greatest nation in the world,” we are embarrassingly behind other first-world nations.

The bad economy is not a good excuse to set our future on fire by short-changing a generation of students. We have reached a crisis point where we must either commit to funding education or give up on the idea that we control the fate of our country and our economy.

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