Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Catch-22

I'm going to veer a little from books today (don't worry though, I'll work my way back around to it) to address a related topic - education. It seems we're falling into a Catch-22 right now in higher education.

As a nation we rank at 15 when it comes to folks with higher education degrees. That's pretty dismal in and of itself. Appears as though it's an area we need to make efforts in, right? Well, with the economy the way it is, most state-funded institutions are having their funds cut. And the private institutions have taken a hit in their endowments with all the craziness in the economy. A lot of the schools are starting to rumble about having to cut back on blind acceptances because they simply don't have the money to pay for those who can't afford tuition. Another remedy for colleges is to decrease their enrollments. So, who will end up being educated? The folks with the money.

The economy is an area we will overcome. It may take awhile, but (God willing) things will get back on track. Here is my concern. Are we going to be so concerned with graduating folks from institutions of higher learning (so that we can say we have enough graduates) that we lower the standards for graduation?

The Gates Foundation wants to pump money into community colleges. That's a good cause to support. But here's the catch. The community colleges have to graduate the people to get the money...they would receive the money on the back end, not the front. Again, is that going to result in lower standards - "just give 'em the paper so we can get the money. Who cares what they actually learned."

I would like to see our country graduating more people from our higher education institutions, but not at the cost of lower standards. That won't improve anything. I'll sound rather pessimistic here when I say I feel we have a cancer spreading in our country - so many people don't VALUE the amazing education system we have available here. We're more concerned with getting out as quickly and with as little effort as possible that we miss out on so many opportunities. I think we've gotten to a point where we take it all for granted and until we battle that over-inflated sense of entitlement at its core - all the way down to pre-school - we aren't going to see improvement. Oh, we can get numbers on paper, but numbers on paper don't necessarily turn into great leaders or inventors or engineers or doctors or teachers or entrepreneurs or...

All kinds of well-meaning folks want to throw money at the problem. And I'm not saying money isn't important. But the first step and the most important step is to realize how rich we are just to have the opportunities we have been given and realize we have RESPONSIBILITIES in those opportunities. Where does it have to start? At home. Let's read to our children, nieces and nephews, godchildren, grandchildren, all the children. Make time EVERY DAY. Visit the library. Give books as gifts. Show them that reading is enjoyable and special. Encourage them to question and explore and think and expand their minds through those books. Give those children a step up when they head to school. How we value reading and learning and growing as adults...that's where the children learn their values. If we "don't have time" for reading, but we have plenty of time to watch television or play video games, what values are we passing on?

We can all do this. It's a contagious behavior and it doesn't cost us anything. So let's give our young people a gift this holiday season that money can't buy. Let's turn off our televisions and video games and computers and schedule time to spend as families reading together. Share what you're reading with each other if you have independent readers. Make family trips to the library. Let's challenge ourselves to help our education system, because it is OUR education system...not the state's, not the government's, not the board of education's...it's OUR education system. Let's fulfill OUR responsibilities to our younger generations and give them the shots they deserve!

Thanks for tolerating me on my soapbox today! Happy Reading!

2 comments:

Corey Wilde December 11, 2008 at 12:11 PM  

Move over and let me on that soapbox, too. Schools can only do so much. Parents have far more influence over their children than teachers. When parents read to their children and to themselves, they demonstrate that they place value on reading. College graduation rates will improve when high school graduation rates improve, and that will happen when young people are trained to be proficient and habitual readers.

le0pard13 December 11, 2008 at 9:30 PM  

Nothing contrary from my side. I believe reading/comprehension levels are at the center of our education problems, and their solution. Everything comes down to early education for setting those reading skills that will only help those seeking higher education later in life. Like Corey said, if they are proficient/habitual readers, they'll seek and complete higher education--and have the habit instilled in them that learning doesn't stop just because you've graduated.

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