Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Preventing Tomorrow’s Problems Today Through Education

Preventing Tomorrow’s Problems Today Through Education A few years ago, I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Thomas Meredith, chancellor of the University of Georgia System, speak on the importance of education. He stated, “Ask me any question, and the answer is education, education, education.” Although I fully understood what he meant at the time, I am not sure if he knew how truly profound his statement was. Some of our political leaders and most of the Occupy Movement participants believe we need greater laws and higher taxes on some to level the playing field. And that seems an easy solution. But the problem with that approach is it just will not work. When government provides its citizens the means to live by, most of those recipients will not use that assistance to better themselves and position themselves for greater opportunities. They will more often than not simply become more and more dependent of the government to continue providing for them. Case in point, during our nation’s very difficult and extreme recession, the federal government in cooperation with state governments provided almost two years worth of unemployment assistance. Almost two year’s worth of income with no requirement that the recipients do anything. Income over a period of time that an associate’s degree could have been earned if pursued. Furthermore, many states provide low cost and in some cases no cost educational and job-training opportunities. One would naturally assume that many if not most of those displaced by their jobs being eliminated would have sought out retraining opportunities to better equip themselves for gaining employment when the economy improved. A few have returned to school to better themselves but just a few. And even more perplexing, we as a nation have invested trillions in education infrastructure that is producing a dismal return on investment at best. Although our children enter pre-k or kindergarten blessed with God-given intellect and ability, our one hundred year old model of education loses a tremendous number of them along the way who will not graduate or even if they do will not be prepared for post-secondary learning. We have invested trillions more in a higher education system that only graduates less than 20% of those that enter college (technical or bachelors programs). And our career guidance and placement capacity is so minimal; the vast majority that is capable and has the initiative to seek the education needed, waste time and money not knowing what their interests and demonstrated ability will translate into a career field they can be successful in. Education – even as inadequate as our current system is – is still America’s greatest hope for creating wealth and opportunity for its citizens. With Baby-Boomers poised to leave the workforce by the millions, our young people given the proper education and training will have limitless opportunities. But only if they stay in school, work hard, and go on to college and gain the necessary work skills needed by the world marketplace. Just as Sen. Bethel recently remarked that you cannot legislate the heart as he spoke on the tragedy of child abuse. I would also argue that you cannot level the playing field through government action. The system should have adequate checks and balances to prevent the dishonest from manipulating the system, but open enough that hard work and ability can enable success by future generations just as it has historically. America remains poised for greatness and education, education, education remains the ticket to opportunity …

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