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Opinion

Opinion

Education a high priority in U.S.

September 10, 2011

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Even God’s poll numbers are down, barely crossing the 50 percent approval rate, according to a poll done by Public Policy Polling. While relatively low, they easily exceed the numbers of both Democrats and Republicans in Congress. They each had a 33 percent approval rating. Rupert Murdoch, the scandal-plagued media baron, was seen favorably by only 12 percent of the voters.

Across the spectrum, Americans are worried and cranky, much of this a result of the tiresome political posturing on matters of substance. The public wants discernable change, common sense and immediate action from leaders who appreciate the history of politics and the meaning of reasonable compromise. A mere 6 percent of likely voters rate Congress as doing a good or excellent job, a reflection of the disdain for the stalemates and never-ending bickering between political parties. 

In the next presidential and congressional elections, politicians can expect an angry ring to the questions they hear. Glib generalities and graceful sidesteps will not be well received, either on the central issue of the economy and jobs or on other issues. And other issues do exist. More than half of likely voters want a thorough airing of health care, taxes, government ethics and corruption, social security, immigration, and education.

Education is certain to remain a major topic because everyone knows it holds a key to success in the workplace. More than three quarters of executives and students see postsecondary education as a career necessity. More than 80 percent of teachers, parents, and executives believe high school graduation and readiness for some form of college is the highest priority of the day.

Polls also inform us about uneasiness concerning today’s high schools. Almost three-quarters of the adults surveyed gave a low grade to secondary schools and almost half thought the students were less well prepared for work or college than when they graduated.

The College Board, America’s largest educational association, has added to the literature by commissioning work with business leaders, teachers, students, and school administrators.

Those interviews, conducted by Hart Research Associates, point out that “education reform in the U.S. today often tends toward procedural questions: Should the number of charter schools be expanded, how should teachers be evaluated, how should student test scores be used in holding students and teachers accountable. While these are important issues, they are not central to the conversations that are occurring among those who deal with the reality of America’s high school, or who are thinking about what high schools need to be in the future.”

But those interviewed put forth a positive and plausible vision of education. It includes: 

l effective teaching of history, current events, cultural literacy, math, writing, and oral skills, all made relevant to their students’ world;

l individual flexible learning in small classes;

l students with a vision of their futures, supported by practical work experience and hands on learning;

l college readiness that incorporates the skills to live independently, problem solve, understand the world, learn throughout life, and be active citizens;

l school buildings designed to encourage learning; and  

l universal understanding and use of technology.

It was repeatedly pointed out that college readiness is not a reality for many students and that the current debate about education was unlikely to lead to meaningful changes. 

You may be certain that there will be heated debate about changes in education, underscoring its fundamental importance to the future of America. Constructive criticism can result in needed change when it comes to our schools and colleges. We can only hope that those in power have the sense to respond appropriately.

— Gene Budig served as president/chancellor of three major state universities, including Kansas University, and is past president of Major League Baseball’s American League. Alan Heaps is a vice president of the College Board in New York City.

Comments

Lawrence Morgan 2 years, 7 months ago

I'm not a fan of Gene Budig, but the article is right on in this instance. Procedural matters aren't the issue. These can be debated forever. It is the quality of education in our schools, especially for poorer people, and it is also adult education, which he makes no mention of. People can learn at all ages. Why shouldn't there be community colleges all across Kansas? I've mentioned it before, and it's true. Kansas University is only a small part of what should be available today. And the current chancellor is partly at fault for not encouraging more adult education!

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LogicMan 2 years, 7 months ago

I just posted this on a KUSports article, but it's relevant here too:

This story, found by others, says that UT and ND have approached the B1G for 2014. Others say the guy was first with the NU to the B1G news, so he's sounding credible.

http://northwestern.rivals.com/showms...

However, UT and ND are making huge demands on the B1G, and that won't go over well. KU and MU, if not already, need to jointly (and quickly!) approach the B1G privately with the message that we bring lots and aren't demanding at all. Walk on the wild side with UT/ND if you must, but we're the cultural and regional fit needed to fill out either your 14 or 16.

And if not UT/ND too, then please also consider KSU and ISU.

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Peter Macfarlane 2 years, 7 months ago

I love the informed comments above.

Each generation of school children is distinct because of parental and societal expectations and also socioeconomic factors. The expectations that my parents had of me were significantly different from the expectations of today's parents. For example, I grew up in a middle class household in a fairly wealthy suburb of Chicago. By the time I was a junior in high school, only the kids from wealthier families drove to school. The rest of us walked or took the bus. I did not own my first car (a high mileage 1954 Chevy) until I was a sophomore in college. In today's world, many more kids are expected to drive to school even from middle class families.

In today's world of child rearing we are much more concerned with making sure are well adjusted socially than in previous generations. We medicate children who are ADHD so they can be in the classroom; our attitudes toward children with disabilities, autism, and other difficulties have changed considerably and for the good, I have to believe.

There are also opportunities for preparing our children to go into the world that were unheard of when I was in school. And, most of the time these opportunities allow our students to see why it is important to learn how to read, solve math problems, etc. Lastly, one of the great advances we have made in education is teaching our children the skill of problem solving, something we, in my generation, probably only learned by accident after many failures.

In my humble opinion, it is far too easy to lob and heap criticism on the educational system that is not only supposed to teach, but also in many cases is taxed with feeding and providing care for our children. Many of these responsibilities should be borne by parents and other caregivers.

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TheBellTolls 2 years, 7 months ago

Our education system was designed by labor as a holding pin to reduce the work force competing for wages.

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OonlyBonly 2 years, 7 months ago

Balderdash! If education is such a high priority why can't the current generation (typically) read, write or do arithmetic? Education is a high priority for administrators (don't take a slice of my pie) but the students, well they're left feeling "good about themselves" without a basic education!

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