Silent Generation Speaks, Listen Up!
As a nation, we are falling behind other countries in the education of our children. In many countries children are denied education due to wars, famine and pandemics. But we are free of such elements within our borders. What is our excuse for not caring for our children who will one day lead us and compete in the international marketplace?
WHAT IS HAPPENING IN OTHER COUNTRIES?
To name just two examples of where other nations place education of their children as a top priority, I mention China and Chile. In China, children start competing for an opportunity to go to secondary and higher educational institutions in the first grade. And if they get into college, it is free. Chile has a billion dollar program to pay for graduate studies in the United States, with the understanding the students will return to Chile to live and work, thereby benefiting themselves and their country.
A recent study showed what was most important to educating children was to provide stability in their lives, security, and affirmation and acceptance, all found in schools. Following those elements, children need time together with their family and friends, and involvement in their communities.
A 40-year study by the University of Washington shows improving the education of child bearing age women reduces the mortality rate of children. In developing countries, when the average years of schooling for women 15 – 44 increased from 2.2 to 7.2 years, the child mortality rate dropped from 16 million to 7.8 million. An estimated 51% of the reduction was due to increased education of the women. Globally, the education of women 25 and older has increased from 4.7 years to 8.3 years. A better educated mother translates to better educated children.
WHAT’S HAPPENING IN THE UNITED STATES?
At the national and state levels our efforts to educate our children are dictated by “how much is it going to cost?” When our governments feel a need to reduce costs (at all cost), they reduce the funds available for education and public safety (police and fire departments). Why do they not understand these are benefits of living in our great country that should never take second place to any budget line item?
Compared to the world, here is where we rank when it comes to educating our children:
|Percent of GDP spent on education
(Cuba is #1, spending 3 times what we do)
|Compulsory level of schooling||7th|
|Grade 12 proficiency in mathematics||14th|
|Grade 12 proficiency in science||15th|
|Grade 12 literacy||15th|
|Primary teachers salary||5th|
How is it students can reach the 12th grade who can’t read and don’t do well in other subjects? The answer is because our school systems no longer hold back a student who is failing because “they don’t have the funds for repeats”. Schools are pushing students through, and in some cases even altering test scores, so students will pass and the teachers won’t lose their jobs. Recently, several states said they will ignore the requirements of the No Child Left Behind law because “they’re unrealistic.” One might ask why they can’t have 100% proficiency in reading and math by 2014, nine years after the law was passed. In any other profession, you meet the goals set by your boss or they find someone else to do the job.
High schools need to prepare students for college through college prep courses and other major studies instead of telling the students “you can wait to take those courses at the community college because it is nearer to home and the cheapest.” Such advice limits the student in maturing and achieving their goals. This is also the time when students need counseling to identify which are the better colleges/universities they should strive to qualify for admittance, based on the profession or major they have chosen. As parents and teachers we need to help our children to receive the very best education possible and not hold them back. They are our future.
Federal and state budgets need to spend more on education, and stop saying we can’t afford it. If we have to raise taxes to better educate our children, then that is a priority. Some poorer nations spend two to three times the percentage of their GDP as we do. When Congress and state governments provide the funds, then we can and need to increase primary level teachers’ salaries to attract more of the better teachers in the country. Some teachers are just babysitters willing to accept the low paying jobs. As in any profession, the more you pay the better professional you get for the job.
There are private entities that have seen the need and taken up the cause to start the process of better educating our children as soon as they are of school age. One such initiative is that of David Lawrence, Jr., the former publisher of THE MIAMI HERALD. 11 years ago he became President of the Early Childhood Initiative Foundation in South Florida, and dedicated the rest of his life to helping better educate our young children to prepare them for life in an ever-changing and more difficult world. Recently Dave founded and became the Chair of the Children’s Movement of Florida. Through his tireless efforts, the Movement has expanded into most counties in Florida, and is poised to become a national program. There is no greater cause than to educate our children for the good of our country and generations to come.