Monday, June 09, 2008

Hard Roads Ahead

Like many of you, some of what I read on the Op Ed pages of the NY Times I buy into and some I don't, but rarely do I find the columns uninteresting.

Indeed, whether I agree with what I am reading or not, the columns of people like Tom Friedman, Maureen Dowd, William Kristol, David Brooks and Bob Herbert all continually drive home to me the value of education.

The ability of these writers, not to mention thousands of others whose have been fortunate enough to gain an excellent education have been blessed with being able to refine the gift of communication in writing, and not just the ability to "communicate", but to do so in ways that are both very powerful and often equally as persuasive.

A recent piece by Herbert which he called Hard Roads Ahead really caught my attention because he was writing about a subject on which I have commented here on a number of occasions, and probably will again as I believe it is the most serious issue we face, and heaven only knows we don't lack for issues competing for the top spot, but my vote still goes to the state of public education.

In the article, Mr. Herbert quotes from a book by Robert Wise. The book is called "Raising the Grade: How High School Reform Can Save Our Youth and Our Nation." Wise said:

International comparisons rank the United States a stunningly unimpressive eighteenth for high school graduation rate, a lackluster ranking of fifteenth for high school reading assessments among 15-year olds in developed countries, and an embarrassing 25th for high school math.
The column goes on to point out, again using Wise as the source, that in 1995 the U.S. was second in the world (New Zealand was first) in the graduation rate from four year colleges, and even though as a country, we have increased our percentages, we now rank 15th because of how rapidly others in the world have progressed.

The results? One example pointed to was the fact that the CEO of AT&T, Randall Stephenson, has said that the company has had real problems trying to find enough skilled workers to handle 5,000 customer-service jobs that the company had promised to bring back from overseas.

In a prior life I spent five years working for a city as the Director of Labor Relations. At the time I was too young to realize what the heck I had gotten myself into, but it turned out to be a memorable experience and education on several levels to say the least.

When I left the public sector and returned to the corporate world, I took away two key "learnings." One was the importance of leadership, and the second was a belief that when it came to really solving many fundamental issues facing us all, that it would have to be business not government that would have to lead the way.

Given the track record of both of late, it doesn't feel like much of a choice, but to borrow once again from the column, I thought the last quote from Wise said it very powerfully indeed:

"The best economic stimulus package is a diploma."


Libertarian at 08824 said...

>The book is called "Raising the
>Grade: How High School Reform Can
>Save Our Youth and Our Nation."

Maybe as a society, we are finally going to escape the "government education" paradigm. We can't 'afford' it from both the input side (i.e., taxes) and the output (i.e., quality of what it produces). Socialists have used it to undermine our national commitment to individual achievement and rugged individualism that made America great. And, put them in control of everyone's lives.

The purposes of the education system we imported from Prussia was to make cannon fodder soldiers and malleable factory workers. All that could be easily let by a powerful "elite". Seems to have worked.

Unfortunately, cannon fodder soldiers are not how wars are fought today. Factory workers don't exist any more in the USA. And that "smart elite" isn't very 'smart' and have clay feet.

Time for a paradigm shift? Not just more meaningless diplomas.


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