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America needs to pay more attention to education, now

Monday, September 1, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:52 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, September 2, 2008

It is truly unfortunate that education has gradually become a joking matter among some people. For example, individuals who are serious about scholarship are laughingly referred to as nerds and often ridiculed on television. And these days, it seems, life so often imitates television.

That subject came up at lunch last week when we were kidding one of the women present, who happened to be an engineer, about the way science keeps interfering with certain theories. The way some insist that global warming is a myth is a case in point. They just refuse, for instance, to accept such phenomena as the reason the polar bears are losing their habitats as proof of anything.

And it's insulting the way some of the political commentators are suggesting that educated people are in a minority among the electorate. The implication that the average American is such an ignoramus that they simply cannot communicate with any political candidate who speaks in words containing more than three syllables really says a lot about how we view the educational system in this country.

While I realize that society as a whole seems to have lost the desire to improve our literacy rate, I don't find it a situation worthy of applause. And I know, too, that many of us are in denial and don't want to believe the literacy rate of some other countries in the world are higher than ours. Sure, it's hard to believe these individuals do not understand how this can affect us in our claim to be leaders of the free world. Are these television pundits trying to tell us we are at the point where we should require literacy tests before people are issued a ballot?

Actually, I think our political leaders should be well-educated. And I think something should be done to improve our educational system. I don't think the dumbing down of political candidates so they can be elected to public office would be helpful to that process. The escalating high school drop-out rates are alarming to some of us, and the fact that we have so many other critical problems to wrestle with that these rates cause only a slight mention in the news is sad. There was a time in our history where the 2008 report from America's Promise Alliance and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation stating that 1.2 million students drop out of high school every year would have caused such an uproar that it would be the leading news story all year. Parents would have been hysterical, and school boards throughout the country would have been scrambling to find ways of dealing with the issue.

But the announcement hardly raised a murmur. As the year progressed, the problems with the economy and the energy crisis kept most people's noses to the grindstone, and the crisis in education lost out to other more pressing matters. So, the school year opened once more with few changes. Failure by many to pass on education as a cultural value to younger generations seems to be a common practice as children seem to lose interest in school at a very young age.

Leaving school board meeting attendance to parents is wrong-headed as far as I'm concerned, although many people seem to feel differently. I think until members of the community, civic and social club members and professional groups start putting the pressure on school boards to address the issues causing drop-out rates to soar, nothing of substance will occur. Except when it's time to vote on a school levy, people tend to forget it is the taxpayers the school boards are elected to serve. Parents should be encouraged to understand they are the recipients of the free service and not the governors of it. Too often those two roles are confused, and many times that's exactly how schools get out of hand. Some parents have difficulty managing their own homes and permitting them to have a free hand in the operation of the schools can be disastrous.

The old-fashioned idea that any person growing up in America could become president may sound good, but, frankly, I would prefer someone who had the self-discipline to get an education before he or she is voted into office. Because even with diploma in hand, these days, that is no guarantee that the individual is fit to serve.

In the meantime, several media commentators are becoming more offensive with each passing day. Before going before the public, they need to examine their upbringing and cultural values and assess their own attitudes. Some may be surprised to discover they are not the people they think they are and advertise themselves to be.

Those in control of cable networks should rethink the 24-hour news cycle. They need to realize there are more important things dealing with our way of life than politics. A wiser use of time would be in educating the public to their rights and responsibilities as citizens.

Their broadcast personnel might benefit from such education as well. No one knows everything there is to know about everything. When you believe you do, you are simply wrong.

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

 


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