Guest Post: Teresa S. Madore on Valuing Education

(Originally published as a letter to the editor in the St. John Valley Times, summer 2009)

At the turn of the 20th century, the rate of available knowledge used to double every hundred years, now the rate of available knowledge doubles every five years.  We live in an increasingly complex world, and in order to be successful, productive citizens of this world, we must be well educated.  In order for mankind to progress, we must nurture and safeguard the education of our youth.

The lifeblood of our communities is our schools.  Our schools give our towns an identity.  Our schools unite us in our common goal of educating our youth—our greatest resource.  Parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles often point with pride to their young students’ school accomplishments.  Refrigerators everywhere are plastered with report cards, school projects, and news-clippings of a loved one’s school achievements.  From cheering your son as he scores one for the team, to swelling with pride as your granddaughter earns her high school diploma and every memorable moment in between—our schools provide so much more than just the three R’s.  Our schools advertise to the world what we value as a society.

During these tough economic times, no one has been left unscathed.  It would be easy to view our schools as liabilities in these tough times, but our schools is an important factor in helping to lift us out of our financial woes.  Many people have been laid off, and many of these people realize a key to their reemployment is retaining and perhaps even going back to school to get a degree.  Sometimes it’s during times of adversity that we truly come to understand the value of an education.

Corporations and businesses certainly know the value of education.  When businesses are scouting new locations, they will investigate many aspects of a city or town.  One important aspect that makes a town attractive is the quality of its schools and the educational level of the workforce.  Real estate agents know a good way to sell a property is to boast about the quality of the town’s schools and education.  It’s a major selling point.

Dealing with budgets can be vexing and sometimes hurtful.  When you think you’ve made a minor cut in one area, you’ve caused a major hemorrhage in an unseen area.  Making too many cuts can transform the lifeblood of a community into an anemic vessel that’s just limping along.  Too many cuts will inevitably transform a school that was known for excellence to one that is characterized as “good enough.”  Is your child’s or grandchild’s education and future really the most prudent area in which to economize?  Would you feel confident knowing your doctor graduated at the top of his class at Super-Saver University?

As United States citizens, we are entitled to free, public education.  This fact is so deeply ingrained, we come to take it for granted.  Our educational system, though not perfect, is the envy of the world.  Many people around the world admire our many freedoms, and the ideals espoused in our Constitution.  Jefferson once said, “A democracy depends on an educated populace.”

Many people quickly point out that yes, our schools are public, but they sure aren’t free.  They’re right, but what’s the alternative?  There is a saying: “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance; its costs are even more prohibitive.”

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