Education is Everyone’s Business — Ending the Recession and Improving America

When the founding fathers of the United States shaped this nation and established the Constitution, public education was not a fact of life. In fact, education is not mentioned at all in the U.S. Constitution. Over two centuries later, it may be the public school system that pulls our economy and nation out of the worst economic lull since the Great Depression. Why is education so important and why hasn’t our society realized its true importance to our society?

H. Ross Perot, a prominent business man and presidential candidate in 1992, wrote a stinging critique of the American public school system in the March 2009 edition of the U.S. News and World Report. On page 16, Mr. Perot wrote:

Fifty years ago, when we had the finest public school system in the world, the United States could count on an educated populace to create, design, and produce innovative products and services needed to drive the economy and create jobs. Today our public schools rank near the bottom of the industrialized world, and it’s not for the lack of money. The education system is partly to blame for the financial crisis in which we find ourselves. Unless we do a better job of educating our children, we will be unable to grow our economy at even a moderate rate.

Mr. Perot’s critique is not very flattering, and many educators may find his criticisms insulting, and that is very understandable. The crisis that is on our doorstep and the decline in some areas of student performance is a complex issue and should not be placed completely on the shoulders of the public schools and educational professionals. But, the importance of education to the economic, political, and moral survival of our society emphasized by Perot is correct.

I have had the pleasure to be an educator for twenty years and it is a distinction that I wear with honor. I call on educators to accept and nurture their prominent role in our society. Even though we do not always feel appreciated, we are the backbone of this nation. If we are to expect respect from those outside of our field, we must first respect and value our own profession. Politicians, economists, and other professionals think that they run this nation, but the truth is, educational professionals who prepare the future leaders and citizens control the nation’s agenda. As the saying goes: the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. As the nation, and in fact the entire world, teeters on economic disaster, the skills and intellectual development of our children will move us to safe harbor. I implore my fellow educators to consider the following challenges:

  1. End petty and personal issues that interfere with a razor-sharp focus on student development. They are the true purpose for the existence of the system.
  2. Become the life-long learner that we encourage students to become and consistently sharpen your skills, not just because the state requires it for continued credentialing, but because you want to improve your practice.
  3. Call, write, and lobby your legislature to fix the school funding structure that cripples schools in many states and grossly underfunds schools and leaves them without the tools that they need to improve student learning. If we can find money for wars and bailouts for greedy and irresponsible banks, we can find money to support the growth of our students.
  4. We must make a pledge that if we get the increased funding we need, we will commit to presenting our nation with the most educated and progressive group of citizens that we have ever seen. It is the right and patriotic thing to do!