“[Education] is a microcosm of a life in which we can all be equal and therefore free to make the best use of our talents and determination…”
— Neal Lawson and Ken Spours
The Guardian, Oct. 17, 2011
Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences has undertaken a conversation on the future of OSU Extension, and is completing a futuring process that is looking for input from many parties.
Part of that process, however, is trying to identify forces or trends that we’ll be facing 20 years down the road.
In thinking about that challenge at one of the visioning sessions earlier this summer, I immediately focused on primary and secondary education and the socio-economic factors that are widening the gaps in developing tomorrow’s adults. We now have a world where many have basic education and many do not.
Many of today’s children are growing up in a world that works against them. I see it in rural areas and I see it in urban areas. A teacher I know just told me about a young student who was abruptly put into foster care one night and all the student could talk about the next morning was the great dinner served at the foster home. The student’s world was uprooted, but he was instead so thankful for food.
Many of us take for granted the stable situations in our own homes and can’t truly imagine or know the home environments of many children. We have very young children in early grades with little family support at home, poor social skills, and few coping mechanisms other than lashing out at the offender. And those problems just compound as students get older.
Now schools didn’t create these social problems and inequalities and schools aren’t the only answer. But I firmly believe education is a public good, and one that plays a role in what our nation is, and can become.
We can do nothing as a society with a growing population that can’t read or write. Education is basic to our well-being as a nation.
The U.S. Census Bureau recently released numbers on U.S. household wealth and, sadly, the cliche “the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer” is all too true.
Median net worth increased between 2000 and 2011 for households in the top two tiers (the wealthiest 40 percent) and dropped for the rest of us.
The inequality is more than just financial. We now have a gap in cultural experiences and civic values. We sequester ourselves from anyone not like ourselves. No one knows, or cares, how the other half (whatever that might be) lives.
Education, even the most basic primary and secondary eduction, in my opinion, is an effective mechanism for reducing those great divides.
There is great potential in each child, no matter where he lives or his circumstances. Everyone deserves a chance, and sometimes a second or third chance, as many of us have had.
We all have a stake in the adequate education of all children, not just our own. We all need to make sure tomorrow’s adults have skills and knowledge to function in a community. We should all care that tomorrow’s workers have the capacity to be economically productive.
As one education researcher put it, you “can run from public education, but you can’t hide from its consequences.”
Our future depends on how well we educate all of our children.
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