It is unfortunate that, in today’s world, the value of education has plummeted to terrifying lows. The Chicago teachers strike is a sobering reminder of the cuts and changes that have been forced upon educators around the country. Twenty-nine thousand unionized teachers have staged a strike that has lasted the entirety of the week, further hindering academic progress by keeping over 350,000 students out of school.
Why, in an age where it seems that knowledge is endless, has education slipped so low on our list of priorities? As of 2009, the median income for an adult with a professional degree was $128,000. The income for a high school graduate amounts to just $20,000. Unemployment rates for those without a college degree are over three times higher than for those who have graduated college. But still, we severely curtail the learning capabilities of children by cutting more teachers and programs each year.
With an economy that has left the country’s average jobless rate at 8.3 percent, it would seem idiotic to focus our resources on anything but improving education. Higher education quite literally guarantees lower unemployment rates and fewer people living below the poverty line. These benefits are visible without factoring in the greater possibility of medical, scientific and artistic advances that could literally change the fabric of our society for the better.
Instead, however, budget cuts in all 50 states have left education as the loser. In Maine, the cuts have been spread throughout all levels of learning, starting with the state’s youngest children by trimming Head Start’s budget by more than half. Many school districts have been forced to eliminate several positions and numerous programs, often starting with the arts. Instead of expanding the minds of our children and broadening their ability to learn, these cuts have molded public education into a “teach for tests” monster. Schooling no longer exists to truly educate. Instead, the basis of learning has been grotesquely altered by the remnants of “No Child Left Behind.”
With the importance of kindergarten to 12th grade education fading fast, it is only natural to suspect that state funding for universities will continue to dwindle. This would begin an awful domino effect where tuition rates rise and fewer and fewer young adults could afford what has essentially become a necessity on the path to a comfortable life. With poverty rates rising, how can we in the U.S. validate constraints that could very likely help add to these already sky-high numbers?
It seems clearer than ever that knowledge is a necessity. In this day and age, where violence flourishes, and money speaks volumes, the only way to turn ourselves in the right direction is through education. How is it possible for advancements to be made and for the economy to grow with a workforce that is backtracking away from higher education? The clear relationship between level of education and success is one of the only statistics that provides the potential to significantly improve America. Yet, we continue to ignore this fact. How long will it be before the cuts cease and the necessity of comprehensive, well-funded education is realized? Hopefully soon. And hopefully before we drive ourselves into the ground.