EDUCATION COMMENT: A RACE TO THE BOTTOM? - We Should All Be Challenged

(09/22/2015)

COMMENT Bob Weaver

High school graduates, particularly from poor rural or urban ghettos, are facing a precarious upward slope to find a working niche in the 21st century world, to enjoy the benefits of having what has been called the "American Dream."

Even those not locked by poverty, are now facing similar challenges, with college debt in the USA reaching over one trillion dollars.

The USA has now fallen to 14th in the world in terms of the percentage of young adults with college degrees.

In the glorious days after World War II and the 1950s, the message of getting a college education could easily be ignored, high school graduates could find well-paid manufacturing jobs.

Many went to college and secured their future with the GI Bill paying the costs.

Most of Calhoun High graduating classes in 1950-60s found their niche, bright young men and women, found good paying jobs.

At a recent class reunion, I marveled looking at their faces, how their hard work, generally sticking with their longtime employers, allowed them to pay for a home, have a car, pay their bills, send their kids to college and live that American Dream.

Now, graduates of Calhoun High are hard pressed to find such jobs with globalization, and few can afford the high costs of college education.

Being under-educated is no longer an option.

Calhoun is among America's poorest counties and has the lowest college going rate of West Virginia's 55 counties at 28%.

While its easy to blame local administrators, school board members or teachers, the multi-layered problem is bigger than all of them, including the under-funding of the local school system through the state's funding formula.

In the blame game, some blame "dumbed-down" students and parents that have little interest in bettering their lives, the students coming from culturally and financially dysfunctional families that offer few challenges to overcome their plight.

But it would a stretch to believe that Calhoun and rural kids do not have the brightness and intelligence to learn.

Meanwhile, education reform is obsessed with assessment and accountability.

Whether in the form of No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, or Common Core, billions of dollars are devoted to defining what kids should know and then assessing whether they know it.

"Tinkering with assessments is just rearranging the deck furniture on the titanic failure of education reform. Real education reform will come when, and only when, we address poverty, fund schools properly and honor the teaching profession with good pay and the respect teachers deserve," wrote Steve Nelson.

The uniform skewing of curriculum and teaching practices to elevate scores, demoralizes teachers and students.

Hopefully, someway, somehow, we can reverse the trend and provide the education kids need to thrive in the 21st century.

It is mindful, while placing blame, we should all be challenged as parents and community members to support solutions.


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