“Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.” -George Washington Carver
An educated populace is an importance facet of any fully functioning society. As we move forward into the future it is vital we continue to invest in this key area. Sadly, a great deal of the rhetoric surrounding the public discourse focuses on shrinking the size of our government at all costs. When the focus is on the creation of tax breaks and cutting our way to the future, many times education is the first to suffer. This disturbing trend cannot be allowed to continue for a number of reasons.
In order to adapt and remain competitive as an economy, education must play an even greater role than it has in the past. According to a recent Georgetown study, 63 percent of jobs in America will require some sort of college education. That means almost two-thirds of those expecting to have job in the future will not only need to receive a high-quality K-12 experience, but will also need to achieve success in their post-secondary learning. This is number is even more telling when you consider the number of unemployed individuals with a high school diploma is almost twice that of those with some form of college education. Simply put, we are moving towards a world where increased education will be vital to remain competitive in the job market.
The innovations need to deal with the world’s next set of challenges will come from the educated. Creating a sustainable energy grid, updating our infrastructure, and adapting to a world where we may have to do more with less will require a vast store of knowledge. From the scientists who develop these technologies to the elected officials who create the laws needed to pave the way forward, all will require a large amount of training and education. While this might seem like common sense, the policies we have enacted seem to say otherwise. Cutting low interest loans for graduate students does not encourage the continued specialization in the fields that will be needed, nor does borrowing money from K-12 school districts with no guaranteed way to pay it back. The innovations of tomorrow must be funded today at every level.
We must have the open mind education provides to find the common ground needed. The greatest problem inherent in our current policy discussion is the rigidity of both sides. This inability to accept their way of doing things may not be the best course of action has become increasingly detrimental. While education does not guarantee this trend would reverse, it gives us the ability to question the validity of ideas and avoid the ignorance we all suffer from at one time or another. The more we are exposed to viewpoints and situations we are not accustomed to, the more able we are to assess why it is we believe the way we do and whether it may be wise to take another look. While not the panacea to all things divisive, education has the potential to overcome stubborn, short-sighted opposition in ways not possible in its absence.
No matter what methods we use to prepare for tomorrow, one thing is certain: education is key. Preparing our workforce for the ever-changing dynamics of a world economy requires it. Developing the technologies needed to address the world’s most pressing issues can not happen without it. Finding a way to overcome our differences and finding consensus is simply unrealistic in a world where it is not a priority. We can not sit back and allow partisan bickering and stubborn ideological goals to deprive of us of what makes us great. We must invest in the education system today, so our emerging leaders will have the skills they need tomorrow.