Why should we invest in education?


wow book coverWhy Should We Invest In Schools?

This may sound like a boring topic because no one likes to talk about spending more money for education. We’re probably all worn out.

Pretty soon we will have an array of presidential candidates running for office. All of them will talk about education. Some will say we should invest more in education; some will say we need to stop. It’s always a good debate. It’s kind of like what is happening now in Minnesota. For me it’s a no brainer and here’s why.

Biased as I am because I’m a teacher, if we study our history there shouldn’t be any equivocation over spending more money for schools or teachers or textbooks. Let’s go back in time to determine if our investment in education has paid off.

As early as the 1600’s colonists saw the need for education so they decided that it was a good idea to provide a free public school system. Did it pay off? If we were to compare life in the 1600’s to life today, what word would you use to describe the difference? I can’t think of any that would be fitting—maybe “spectacular” or “astonishing”. Why? More learning was made possible by sending our kids to free public schools and as a result we are healthier, wealthier and wiser.

More people in the United States have a high school education than ever before. Yes, we face some big challenges, but one thing is for sure, our kids are a lot smarter. They know more than you and I did when we were their age but they also need to be smarter to solve not only our national issues but also our global issues.

schoolhouseWithout education there is absolutely no way we could have advanced as far as we have. This isn’t just true of the United States but the same holds true in all “developed” countries. What do these countries all have in common? They all have very good educational systems—Norway, Canada, France, England, Italy, Japan, Argentina, Germany, Brazil, South Korea—well, you can name more.

For many years I have been a proponent for a 100% graduation rate. I believe that when all people in the United States graduate from high school, we will have fewer crimes, fewer people who receive assistance, fewer homeless, fewer people in poverty and, in general, a healthier wealthier nation. Would you agree?

Okay, let’s just say you think I am half right. I would accept that. I would take 50% fewer people in poverty, 50% fewer homeless, 50% fewer in jail and so on. If history is right and I think it is, when we continue to invest in education, we will have a better country for all people. Education was the answer in the 1600’s, in the 1800’s, in the 1900’s and it is the answer in the year 2015 and beyond.

I am not advocating that we hand out free diplomas. We still need to hold all students accountable but we need to work harder at helping those who are likely to drop out to stay in school.

I have been reading about the shortage of teachers in some areas and the demand for more teachers in the future. I can understand why there might be a shortage. It’s tough being a teacher and, admittedly, it’s darn hard work.

In a nutshell here is what a teacher has to do. For example, if you are a high school teacher, you will have 100 or more different students each day. Each student comes from a different background. Each student learns a little bit differently. A few students will really like the subjects they are taking but most are pretty ambivalent just like you and I were.

Some students will come to school with serious issues. Some will come to school late. Some will come to school and forget their books, their assignments, and even their eyeglasses or contact lenses or coats. The job of the teacher is to get to know the students well enough to build up some trust level and at the same time motivate them to learn whatever he or she is teaching in 12 or 18 weeks or less so they can pass a test to show (1) the students learned something and (2) the teacher is doing his or her job. Consider these challenges and then think about what happens when there is some sort of disruption in the classroom.

“Do I still want to be a teacher?” is what some college kids are asking themselves. They know what it is like because they have just spent four years in high school. We should be thankful that many of our young people realize that in spite of the challenges, the rewards of teaching are even greater.

You could never pay teachers enough to justify what they do just like we could never have enough adequate facilities or materials. Still the educational system in the United States at the pre-K though university level is the best in the world. It is the best because history has taught us to choose the higher ground and invest in education and that’s the way it should be.

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