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American exceptionalism starts with education

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  • "Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire."  William Butler Yeats
     

 

Harlan recommended the following to help close the gap. The following is from his prepared comments to the Rotary Club, edited for brevity.

“We must commit ourselves to improving teachers’ skills through mentoring and formal training. Study after study show that having a teacher who’s knowledgeable and motivated can be the most important difference to produce inspired students.

“We must engage our students with hands-on learning as a model to build, support and grow the) STEM pipeline.

“They need to understand, for instance, that even having an associate’s degree in a STEM field pays more than having a bachelor’s degree in any other field. They need to hear that the average starting salary for a chemical industry employee in Texas is nearly $90,000. Do they know that, with just a little overtime, skilled construction workers can earn more than $100,000 within a few years of starting a job?”

I recommend reading the prepared text of Harlan’s speech. There’s much more there than I can cover in one sitting.

Harlan’s speech was a call-to-action, and rightfully so. While there is nothing wrong with a career in the energy field, I would insert agriculture in this discussion too. As has been emphasized in many circles, not only will the United States benefit from becoming more energy independent (or totally independent for that matter), but our agricultural independence is likewise an issue of national security in today’s crisis-driven political climate.

Harlan finished his prepared comments with this: “We need you to advocate for higher-performing schools and a hands-on curricula. Be a leader for change in our education system. Engage on the state and national level so our government leaders understand the issue and act accordingly. Make sure they understand that the main difference between continuing mediocrity and excellence is education."

I’ll add this as I concur with Harlan’s comments: something needs to be done to control the skyrocketing cost of a college education. A breaking point will soon be reached where those who truly need the four-year or graduate degrees to match their ambitions will simply not be able to afford the debt and the modest lifestyle that the possession of a college degree has promised for so long.

 

Follow me on Twitter @ToddFitchette

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