Addressing the three e-challenges in our future |

Addressing the three e-challenges in our future

In this and the next two columns, I am going to comment on three “E”s which are of critical importance to our future as a nation and as a society ” education, energy, and the environment. This column will be devoted to education.

Our colleges and universities are the envy of the world. Foreign countries, especially China, send their best young minds to the U.S. to acquire the knowledge and skills, particularly in science and engineering, which are essential to their economic progress. But in this country, our primary and secondary education systems are failing to turn out the number of students academically prepared for college which we need to keep up with the rest of the world. Recent newspaper articles have reported a major increase in high school drop-out rates in the past few years, and the high percentage of high school graduates needing remedial courses to overcome the deficiencies in their education and prepare them to successfully meet the demands of a college education. So what should we do to remedy this situation?

First, we must overcome the anti-intellectual bias which has grown to permeate our society ” the bumper sticker which brags “my athlete son can beat up your honor student.” Academic accomplishment and skills need to be put on the same plane as athletic achievements. Middle and high schools need organized programs with teams and competitions in verbal, mathematical and scientific skills to bring recognition and honor to their schools, just as football, basketball, baseball and track teams now do. Leagues need to be set up in each of the disciplines, with team standings and year-end championship trophies awarded. And just as important, these academic competitions and the recognition of outstanding team and individual performances need to receive the same level of coverage by the local newspapers as the activities of the local athletic teams.

The ridiculously high salaries of professional athletes give too many teens the false hope of making it big on athletic skill, leading them to neglect the importance of academic training. The chances of achieving a lucrative career in professional sports may be somewhat better than winning the lottery, but not enough to make them worth betting your future on. But an education, whether it be in college, or a trade school where essential skills in a variety of fields such as auto mechanics or computers, can make a sound financial future almost a sure thing.

Another factor in the appeal of school athletics is that it is a sure-fire way of getting the attention of the girls. But if academic performance were given the same publicity, it would also draw the attention of the girls, especially those who are smart enough to recognize who has the better chances of providing a secure financial future.

Many young people are discouraged from pursuing academic achievement by the upward spiraling cost of higher education, putting it totally out of reach financially.

Consequently, there appears to be no future for, and no reason to pursue academic success. This could be remedied by a program funding the continued education, through college or trade schools, for any student who demonstrates the desire and ability for further education and maintains a clean record of sociably-responsible behavior. There are numerous examples, especially school in underprivileged environments, where a sponsor has promised to fund continued education for all those willing to work for it. The result has been a dramatic reduction in truancy and police problems, and a major rise in achievement and graduation.

For the future of our country, which depends on the future abilities of our school-age people, we need to do everything possible to stimulate their educational desire and provide the funding of continuing education which will encourage that desire.

Glenwood Springs resident Hal Sundin’s column runs every other Thursday.

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