The American Education System: The Backbone of Society
If you really think about it, the backbone of any society is education. It's not always obvious, but an educated population paves the way for a better, more prosperous society. There are many reasons for this but I'm sure you can see the direct connection between prosperity and education. For one, without education, we cannot compete in a global economy; Our country will be left in the dust. And guess what, this is exactly what is happening right now. China will soon be the new superpower of the world due largely in part because of the amount of educated people that the country has. If America wants to compete, and kick start the economy, an emphasis on education is a needed.
The Cost of Education
Right now, getting a college degree is very expensive. It's so expensive in fact that many leaders are now encouraging people to not go to college. For many people, going to college is no longer economical and the debt that they would incur far outweighs the benefit of any job they could get with the degree. Mike Rowe, famous for doing some of the dirtiest jobs is America recently said this: “We are lending money we don’t have to kids who can’t pay it back to train them for jobs that no longer exist. That’s nuts.” The fact is, the cost of higher education has now reached the point where it is no longer a feasible option for most people's futures.
I knew a guy that graduated from a renowned 4-year university and ended up getting a decent job. The problem was that he had so much debt that his actual spendable income after making his loan payments was less than what his little brother made while working at Target. And unfortunately for my friend, he will have to struggle for the next 8 years of his life to make ends meet. Student loans cannot be wiped out with a bankruptcy, and many private banks are unwilling to work with him to reduce his payments. What he thought was a great decision (going to college) ended up costing him a lot more. Can you see the problem with this? Getting an education should be a means for a better life, not a worse one.
The Real Cost of Education
In the big picture of things this is quite disturbing. If people stop pursuing higher education because of the cost, our great country will most surely lose the competitive edge in the global economy. Many people don't realize how big of a problem the cost of education really is. If nothing is done about the cost of college only the privileged will have a chance to further their education. Unemployment will rise and eventually employers will de-value degrees (especially graduate degrees). In essence, American society would eventually be doomed to a life of mediocrity.
Promoting Change: Start With Public School System
Now let’s talk about the public school system for a moment. Our nation’s public education system is an utter disaster. Graduation rates are down, teachers are under paid, and many students graduate without the knowledge necessary to succeed in life. The education system needs serious reform. Revitalizing education is the key to improving the economy as wells as the quality of life for our people. School should be a place for people to learn how to be a productive member of society. It should prepare them for life while also imparting enough general knowledge about everything for them to make informed decisions. What informed decisions you ask? I'm talking about career choices, voting choices, family planning choices, etc.
So how do we fix the problem and restart the economy? First and foremost, education needs to become a priority for our Country. It needs to be at the top of the list rather than at the bottom. A world class education system will require world class teachers. Teachers need to get paid at least double what they are making now. Standards for becoming a teacher should also be increased.
After we've funded a good education system and stocked it full of qualified teachers, it would be a good idea to include some new classes in the curriculum. Here are a list of classes that I believe everyone should pass before graduating from high school.
- Basic Finances (Budgets, Savings, Investments, Taxes, Money Management)
- Basic Government (What is the purpose of government, what services do they offer and why?)
- Basic Computers and The Internet (Coding, Websites, Social Media, Privacy)
- Business Management (Basics of how to start and run a business, etc)
Teaching children these items will eventually improve the functionality of this Country. In addition to these general items, a strong emphasis should be placed on careers, jobs, and business. I know a few people who don't have a job, but are struggling to start their own business. What they are lacking, besides resources, is some basic knowledge that might improve their chances for success.
Promoting Change: College and Higher Education
To change the college education system for the better will not be easy. There are at least two things that need to happen that will ultimately make college affordable again: 1) Increase support for trade schools, 2) Push for accreditation of free online colleges.
First on the list is to increase support for trade schools. These days trade schools are often seen as the red-headed stepchild of the family of higher education options. I'm not sure how trade schools earned their stigma, however, we've got to strive for a change in public perception. There are many careers that you can get by going to a trade school that pay just as much, if not more, than a job with a college degree would.
We are on the brink on an online revolution. Most colleges and universities these days offer at least some classes in an online format. Many colleges even offer online degree programs. However, the problem with this is that the online programs cost the same as the regular on campus program and are usually much more difficult to complete. The revolution will begin when companies like Coursera and EdX get the ability to offer complete college degree programs online for free or for a very low fee. The problem is that most of the free courses available do not actually earn you any college credit (though you might earn a certificate). Accreditation of the free programs is needed and employers have yet to take the free classes seriously.