According to this article, fully 25% (yes, one in four!) high school students in America drop out. I had no idea the situation was this grave.
President Bush’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) blueprint was intended to reform education. But I can't imagine they'd call this success. In addition to a 25% dropout rate, from a quick very informal survey (of teachers and administrators), the implementation of NCLB doesn’t seem to be working on the ground. In fact, according to these teachers, it’s making the education worse.
What’s more, according to this, colleges are spending more than $2 billion a year to prepare incoming freshmen (one was actually an “A” student in English!) with remedial classes to bring them up to a basic college standard!!!
Can we do better than this?
Well, there's this other president who made an amazingly bold statement that became the mission of this nation. In 1962, John F. Kennedy said these words at Rice University:
We choose to go to the moon in this decade, and do the other things -- not because they are easy; but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills; because that challenge is one that we're willing to accept; one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win -- and the others, too.
Wow. This passage from earlier in the speech is rather wonderful as well:
We meet at a college noted for knowledge, in a city noted for progress, in a State noted for strength. And we stand in need of all three.
For we meet in an hour of change and challenge, in a decade of hope and fear; in an age of both knowledge and ignorance. The greater our knowledge increases the greater our ignorance unfolds.
It seems to me, that both of these quotes apply almost exactly to our conversation. Change “go to the moon” to “educate and prepare our children for the 21st century”, and you have a mandate for the decade to come.
Why is this not possible? I don’t believe anyone (of any party, social, racial, economic or intellectual status) would argue that the single greatest contributor to the future success of any community/country is the ability of its people to have the passion and capacity to be great.
How would we measure this? How about this:
We must double the number of qualified tertiary (university and community college) students in this country by 2025.
- We must therefore double the number of tertiary slots available to students, in both under and post-graduate.
- We must eliminate tertiary freshmen remediation.
- High schools should be funded based on the grades of their graduates at the end of their freshman and sophomore years in university or college.
There’s a lot more to say here, but this is at least one hour’s thinking on this – here’s hoping this becomes a flagship mandate for whichever candidate wins the presidency.