Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Thought About Education.

Children are born totally dependent. Their parents take on the responsibility for their education. Indeed, it is not until children reach "the age of reason" that we feel they can make responsible decisions for their own education.

A common African proverb, famously used by Hilary Clinton as the title of a book, it "it takes a village to raise a child".  That includes educating the child. It seems obvious that a community as a whole benefits from the education of all its children. It is not simply the child or the child's nuclear family that benefit from the child's education. There are spill overs to the rest of the community. A community has many people playing different roles in its economy and society, with each member serving many others.

Similarly, the United States has a tradition of control of schools by local school boards. While home schooling has become somewhat common recently, the vast majority of kids go to schools here to study a curriculum, use textbooks, and study under teachers chosen by the local school board. Moreover, the public schools are supported by local taxes, not only on the families with children but all the property owners.

In the United States we have begun to use national tests of educational accomplishments. There is increasing concern that some states are not meeting the educational standards of the country as a whole. If there are significant numbers of high school drop outs, kids who don't realize their whole potential, the nation as a whole will fail to achieve its economic potential. Indeed, one hope for an electorate that is educated and thoughtful. Moreover, the social fabric is served by well educated, employed citizens.

At the end of World War II, the allies created UNESCO. Part of the reason it did so was that Nazi Germany had used its schools to inculcate hate for minorities and other attitudes supportive of war in its students. It was recognized that England, France, the United States and other nations had suffered as a result of the educational policies in Germany. Equally, we now must realize that the European Union is a single economy -- any country that fails to educate its children to play their full role in that economy is damaging the economy as a whole and thus the other nations of the EU.

Ultimately, we all lose if the world loses another Einstein, or another Steve Jobs, or another Dahai lama because his community fails to provide the education that is needed to develop his full capacity.

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