Americans must remember value of a good education

Monday, April 21, 2008 | 1:48 p.m. CDT; updated 3:37 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Rose M. Nolen

With America’s Promise Alliance reporting a few weeks ago that 1.2 million students are dropping out of the nation’s schools annually, one can only wonder what the literacy rate will be in the next 10 years. Couple that with the fact that millions of poorly educated immigrants are pouring over our southern borders every year and things begin to look very scary.

I suppose from the free trader’s point of view this will all work out splendidly with all the well-paying jobs moving overseas, and we will have ample minimum-wage workers left here at home to take care of all the service jobs. With the middle-class pretty much wiped out, we can take our place among the Third World countries of the world with two classes — the very rich and the very poor. The main thing for the traders is that we will have a role in the global economy. Rah, rah, rah!

Fortunately, some Americans see where this is heading and are not content to simply fade way. Not everybody in this country is brain dead. We still have an intellectual class in America who, while they may not hold political power, they do have power to influence others. The America’s Promise Alliance, led by former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s wife, Alma, plans to hold summits in every state over the next couple of years in an attempt to help students get ready for college or jobs.

I can understand that there are many reasons why children drop out of school. Irresponsible parents, of course, play a large role, but there are also often problems in the classroom. Some kids have to endure constant bullying from other kids, with teachers and administrators failing to intervene. In some schools, students of influential or wealthy parents receive special treatment that other students resent. And of course, there are cases where children with severe discipline problems continuously disrupt classses to the point where other students become disgusted and finally leave the classroom. And let’s face it, some teachers are, in fact, incompetent and should not be in charge of a classroom. So some schools are presided over by ineffectual administrators, in which case, the school board is responsible for operating a school that has a large number of drop-outs.

But as ordinary citizens, whether we have children in school or not, we have a definite stake in this. These students who have not finished high school are a part of the future generation that is expected to continue the progress the country has made. They will be the voters who will make the decisions on how to run the public’s business.

Certainly, there are parents who would be delighted to support their children and grandchildren for the rest of their lives, but at some point, recession, health problems or common sense will probably make this the exception rather than the rule. The value of a good education is obvious except in the minds of those who equate it solely with the ability to make money. Since so many people — such as sports, music and entertainment figures and politicians — can make a lot of money without the benefit of a good education, some young people fail to see the point. In the minds of many, somewhere along the way, the non-monetary value of education got lost.

Since our current definition of freedom has been construed to mean that everyone is guaranteed the right to do whatever he or she pleases, I suppose it is impractical to believe that we will ever again come to the place where we can insist that parents send their children to school and that children present themselves to be instructed. As it is, I suppose we can only accept the fact that the worst is yet to come.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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