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June 23, 2008, at 12:00 pm — Blogs

Education Is The Answer

Education, everyone, is the answer. I feel there’s no need to explain, but I’m going to anyways.

To me, it seems clear that education is a crucial part of the solution to any problem we face. And I am referring to education in a very generalized sense that includes both formal schooling and the less institutionalized spreading of information. Consider pollution: a stronger educational system would yield a higher number of bright people working on the science, while effective dissemination of accurate information to the public would help build the understanding and the outlook needed to support good policies while bringing about widespread cultural and lifestyle changes. Consider AIDS: strong science education in schools would produce more talent and brains to apply to the problem, while delivering more thorough and appropriate information to the public would slow down transmission and bring more people in for early diagnosis. Consider any major issue facing our nation now, and education can help in some way.

Which leaves me wondering: why don’t we hear more about it? Why doesn’t every bill include an education component? Why doesn’t every congressional appropriation include money for education? Why doesn’t every newscast help us connect more to education and awareness?

I’m serious. Why?

I don’t have an answer. I honestly can’t say. I have a funny feeling part of the reason is because it’s dangerously ingrained in our cultural DNA now to not invest in the future. Maybe that’s been a part of the equation of America all along, but it does seem to be a particular hallmark of more recent times. We forgo the chance to put any stock in the future because our greed or arrogance or ignorance or even just innocent excitement tells us that today is so much more important. And this makes lots of sense, until tomorrow becomes today and we begin to reap what we have sown throughout many negligent yesterdays.

Education certainly is an investment that sees few immediate returns, and when we do see returns is often hard to correlate them with better education. It is more possible with shorter-term efforts, as when a campaign to increase seat belt use yields a marked reduction in traffic deaths, or when a campaign to educate women about breast cancer causes a sharp increase in visits to the doctor. But we will be suffering the ill effects of our overburdened, underperforming school system for decades, as students emerge less prepared for careers and for life than they have been and should be. We will suffer when we struggle to fill high-tech jobs without importing skilled workers from afar or exporting the jobs overseas. We will suffer when our social services are overused and misused by people who could have benefitted from good information early on. We will suffer in many more ways, and of course, we already are.

I’m not a doom-and-gloom person. There are millions of bright spots in our school system, namely the millions of teachers who are doing a good job—or even a great one—day in and day out. And there are certainly fantastic principals and career counselors and superintendents and librarians making a difference in big and little ways, along with plenty of good procedures and traditions and practices. But there are many, many things to be fixed, and I don’t get the feeling we are collectively convinced of how important it is. I’m not sure we all believe that education really is the answer.

I’ll be blogging more on this in the future in hopes of convincing even a few people that it is.


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