Apathy for education is hurting our nation

Tuesday, June 26, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:35 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Rose M. Nolen

My nephew is a football player. He earned scholarships to a top university after high school and was then drafted by a professional football team. His future looks bright.

Other young people in the family were not that fortunate. They had to work their way through college. I’m pleased, though, that none dropped out along the way.

I’m surprised at how lightly some people take the current high school dropout rates. While different studies cite different figures, from one in 10 students to one in three as dropouts, all agree that the rates are increasing. We seem to be a society that no longer takes education seriously.

I’m trying to imagine what the country will be like in the next 10 years with millions of poorly skilled, uneducated illegal immigrants added to our population of millions of high school dropouts. As it is, it’s getting harder and harder to conduct business in many quarters. Sometimes, just trying to get employees to understand basic information is difficult. Simple communications are becoming problematic, whether you are talking to receptionists in business offices or automobile mechanics.

Will we have to bring in doctors, lawyers, engineers, mathematicians and scientists from other countries? Or will all the multinational corporations move somewhere else and leave America home to basic jobs like meat packing and food processing? Will we be so overwhelmed with dumbness that we will be considered unfit for tasks requiring anything but the simplest literacy skills?

Hopefully, in order to save what little remains of our cultural values, we’re going to have to take action.

A good place to begin is by taking a good look at the community’s schools. Have you checked the dropout rate in the high schools? What are the problems according to school officials and teachers and what are the problems according to parents? What do the kids have to say? Civic groups need to make local schools a priority.

Certainly there are a lot of folks who think it is too late to save the kids. They feel that the influence of drugs, sex and other forms of popular culture has made the task too difficult, if not impossible. And as a society we are largely to blame for this. We did not maintain the community standard that our parents and grandparents inherited and preserved. Neighbors were respected and nuisances were not tolerated. Children obeyed adults, period. As a result of our failure to hold fast to that standard, we allowed the world to become unsafe for children. Permissiveness prevailed and there were no limits as to how far individuals could proceed.

It should be considered unpatriotic to look the other way when our values are being stomped into the ground. Community leaders need to ascertain the laws they have on the books requiring children to attend school. If they feel they are inadequate, they need to pass new laws and see that these are strictly enforced. Parents who defy these laws should be fined and/or hauled into court. After all, it’s not just their family that is at stake in this matter; it is the community as a whole. And it should not be assumed that all children who attend school are literate. They should be given literacy tests commiserate with their grade level. While it is no longer necessary to dig ditches by hand, it is necessary to be able to read the instructions on how to operate the machinery required to do the digging. If, as a society, we invested half as much time monitoring our children’s education and social behavior as we do providing for their entertainment, we would see a different outcome.

The president and many members of Congress seem determined to force amnesty for illegal immigrants down our throats, so we need to prepare for the America of the future.

There is no one to blame for the mess we are in but ourselves. The founding fathers created a wonderful nation and one only has to read the newspaper to determine the ways we have loused it up. I hope reincarnation doesn’t exist because I really don’t want to face the people who have sacrificed their lives for this country. Future generations deserve better than this.

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

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