Elmhurst Pub Roundtable

Where the beer is cold and the conversation loud...

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Back again...

So it's been nearly a week, and there are a couple things on my mind. Recently, I was having quite the conversation with a friend of mine out in Chicago about education. It was initially focused on how scholarships are handed out predominantly to minorities and women, leaving most white men out in the cold. I brought up the point that if you have a minority, a woman, and a white male with identical applications, the white man will be the third choice for the job. Part of this is now we are seeing a dramatic increase in the amount of applications submitted to universities by women, and now more than half of med school students are women. None of this is bad, but it's now at a point where white males are becoming a much lower percentage. That conversation led into the education system in general.

It is my belief that the whole thing is messed up. Our public schools continue to cut funding and teachers. Extracurricular activites are limited and the arts are vanishing, towns refuse to raise taxes to allow schools to fill their budgets. Everyone believes their selectmen or the town/city leaders are hiding money. Guess what? They aren't. Mandatory services in towns are being reduced all too regularly. Police officers and firefighters in Massachusetts towns are being lost to budget cuts. Union raises are being questioned. Departments are regularly told that they have to keep expenses flat and are only allowed those salary increases. It makes it impossible to manage budgets.

Americans say they value education. This seems to be an out and out lie. You can't cut these budgets, raise tuition and fees at colleges and universities, have class sizes in elementary schools of 35 and expect a quality education to be given or afforded the majority of the population. In Europe, schools and colleges are funded at the national level, where students are allowed to continue free so long as they meet high standards to attend and maintain student status. Yet America lets the states fund education, making it at the discretion of governments who gets funding and how much they get. How can we claim we value education when we don't fund it at a national level?

In my opinion, this is what has to change and this is what needs to be done. It's time to force the federal government to take responsibility for the national education in the same manner European countries do. While we can't control the wealth of some school districts, we can control the arts and sciences and if they are offered. We can control losing teachers to poor salaries. Half of new teachers are leaving the job within the first five years because their salaries can't cover their expenses. How is this right? Additionally, all state colleges and universities should be free to American citizens. If I wanted to go out to Univ. of Washington, or Univ. of Texas, UMass, URI, UConn, it should be free. These should all be fully government funded so long as you maintain a certain GPA and met certain admission requirements. Fees should be charged for the private institutions - Harvard, PC, BC, etc. In that way, those that can afford to pay for that type of education are still afforded the name institution, but those good students that can't are still given quality education at state universities that in some cases are comparable (UVA, UNC). We complain about how indebted our society is, but it's these college loans that most won't be able to pay off until their early to mid thirties that cause a majority of this debt.

With this level of better and more available (i.e., free) education, it is also time to raise standards. Not everyone with a checkbook should be given a college diploma. It's time to make these diplomas mean something again. At this point, you can almost equate current bachelor's degrees to high school diplomas. Without masters level education, some fields will either find themselves out of work or in a tough position to advance. College is a privilege for those who are academically qualified, not a right for those with money to spend. Elementary, high, and middle schools are a necessity that need to be stocked with good teachers and students with the ability to make something more of the opportunity our government should afford them.

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