All of us are saddened when we think about how our country manages education.
We see the bumper stickers:
“It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.”
Children need to be our first priority. Each of us becomes the person we are because of what happened in the critical, first 18 months of our lives. And the next critical three years. And every year, until we become adults. Every successful mammal prioritizes childcare, even at the risk of being killed to protect his or her young.
Most folks don’t understand the stressors placed on today’s kids. Children today live in a world where electronic screens seduce them away from nature and diminish the time they spend in contact with other people. They are growing up in a nation that has destroyed most of their wilderness. They hear that we have screwed up the economy and that we will leave them with the bill. And then they hear that the planet is at risk, and that their clueless parents are “asleep at the wheel” and failing to notice the unfolding tragedy. They text each other, on average, over one hundred times a day. And a recent report says that 70% of them get texts from their hovering, helicopter parents while they are in class!
If we care about children, we need to care about their teachers. Sadly, we are misguided here. We need to give teachers better salaries and allocate more funds to school programs. Nationwide, we are cutting back on field trips, sports, marching bands, art, and other activities that many of us older folks so loved when we were in school. And there are cut backs in funds for higher education. California, for instance, used to have one of the best college systems in the land. And it was affordable. Now it is in financial trouble, tuitions are rising, classes are closing, and kids are not getting the education and training they need for our nation to succeed in this technological era.
I would challenge all of us to take a look at this. We know that there are bureaucracies that suck up money. We know that there are calcified unions that protect uninspired teachers from being challenged to hone their skills and learn new approaches. We have a ton of recent graduates who are unemployed and a lot of retired people who would have a lot to offer as teachers.
We need to inspire all of us to imagine what we can give to the education system. We need to shake this up. America’s education paradigm needs to become more like Steve Jobs’ company, Apple. Apple had no committees. None. People collaborated, brainstormed, and worked towards “what Steve wanted.” We need inspired leaders to lead us. We need educators with vision and then we need to give them what they needed to make their visions a reality. Michael J. Sandel, the “rock star” professor from Harvard, is such a leader. He might make a great Secretary of Education. Imagine that we gave him a big chunk of the defense budget, got the federal government out of the way, got the unions out of the way, put all the text books on iPads, and aimed kids toward a relevant education.