Thank you for the two July 6 guest editorials on education.
In “Education is the great equalizer in our society,” Don Brunell recognizes the importance of math and science. He writes “these disciplines require time, discipline and hard work to master.” I’m compelled to point out that written communication also seems to be challenging to master, as evidenced by subject-verb disagreements in his piece. (I was surprised to read that as a college freshman his trigonometry instructor was an exceptional teacher.)
Style and grammar aside, Brunell’s piece brings up important talking points. First he says that too many high school students are dropping out. How many is too many? During the years that made this country great, what percentage of students earned a high school diploma? I know my grandparents didn’t yet they were solid tax-paying citizens who benefited their communities. I’m not saying that we should be complacent about drop out rates. But clearly schools have felt enormous pressure not only ensure that all students graduate, but also to convince students that they can and should attend college.
Because of this pressure, college enrollment rates are skyrocketing.
This is good job security for admissions directors, student loan officers, and administrator who run institutions of higher education. But is it good for the students themselves? Clearly, many college students struggle and ultimately drop out.
Brunell points out that people who have a college degree earn more money than people who don’t.
We all know this, and some choose to see this as the root of economic disparity. The simple solution then, according to some, is for entire generations to be college bound. In this kind of thinking, the pay gap between the retail sales clerk and the engineer will decrease because now they’ll both have college degrees. What? People with college degrees don’t have to work retail? Well, when everyone has a college degree, who will ring up my sneakers at Foot Locker?
I do appreciate Brunell’s opinions because it’s important for society to talk about these issues.
What I’d like to offer is that the solution isn’t as simple as making sure every student graduates and is sent off to college. We need more than that to curb economic disparity and ensure a populace that is prepared to contribute to the overall good of the country. We need people skilled in societal analysis who can communicate ideas and influence public policy for the benefit of all. These skills are fostered in the study of humanities – by effective English and social studies teachers. In the dream world where good teachers are rewarded, let’s not limit it to science and math. Let’s reward all who teach children the thinking skills needed to unlock their potential as individuals and contribute to a better society.