Monday, October 17, 2005

It's all coming together

I was sitting on my bed mulling over some ideas for blog entries for today, and one of them was "write about how excited you are for Genya's trip to Malaysia". Why? A bunch of reasons.
1. Genya is really cool.
2. She's one of the brightest bulbs I know
3. She's researching and working on exactly what she wants
4. She gets to do it in Malaysia, which--according to my friends Val and Larry--is a fantastic place
5. (this is the only bad reason) I don't get to go to Malaysia!

She's also that rare person who grew up on in farm-country, has the skills and ambition to do well in business, but her heart and mind are taking her in a different direction. That said, she still writes about farm-country issues from time to time, but like me, usually from a wonk point of view. About a week ago she wrote about farm subsidies, and--amazing for someone I know--with something other than warm glowing praise for the pastoral communities those subsidies supposedly support.

To get where I was going with this when I started a while ago, today in the Washington Post, Sebastian Mallaby has a column where he talks about what the federal government is missing in it's big-issue, doom-and-gloom policy perspective.

"A lot of Washington debates are about managing bad stuff: war, terrorism, natural disasters, killer viruses, budget deficits, trade deficits, medical inflation, airline bankruptcies, imploding corporate pension plans. But policy also needs to focus on the good stuff: To figure out how we can accelerate progress."
Mallaby's talking about improving the quality of our education--bringing out math and science scores up from 15th and 24th in the world to something closer to what our children and our future deserve. He then makes the point that several new incentive programs including prizes for students who do well in Math, and increased pay for Math teachers would cost approximately $10 billion--or half the price of the farm subsidies Genya was writing about.

I'm not going to be nice like Mallaby was. Education is not simply an issue where more money from the federal government will be enough to make a difference. There is a responsibility for the states in all of this. It will take state and school districts establishing their own creative programs to get the right mix of incentives for students and teachers. The right mix of good curriculum, energetic teachers, students who are in school and ready to do more than just whittle away their time.

What are we doing as states, as communities, as individuals to ensure that all our children are given access to the type of education that prepares them to go out and improve the world. Not just push brooms or re-roof houses, but to innovate, create and strive for something. Why don't we really live life on the edge, and try to give our children something to dream of being besides movie stars, pop-singers, rappers, or professional athletes. We've been trying that for 25 years, and it doesn't seem to be working.

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