Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Learning And Earning: It's About Basics

We all know the importance of getting a college education. It's truly amazing just how big a difference it actually makes to one's financial bottom line.

According to a recent article at washingtonpost.com:
"... while families at all educational levels have benefited from rising home values and stock market gains, the better-educated have enjoyed skyrocketing wealth, with college graduates recording an average net worth four times greater in 2004 than that of high school graduates."

The article goes on to report that while the incomes of families headed by college graduates have improved substantially in recent decades, real incomes of families headed by those with only a high school diploma have actually fallen by as much as 11 percent during the same period.

In another article, the Associated Press reported U.S. census data showing that, on average, college graduates in America earn almost twice the income of those with only high school diplomas (the ratio increases to nearly three to one for those with advanced degrees).

Nowadays, education is indeed the coin of the realm, and financial security and comfort necessarily require a good, university-level education. However, this in turn now increasingly depends on better elementary and secondary education than that available to most children in America (hence the phenomenal growth of the private practice education industry, of which I'm a part). Our educational system is producing inadequate results at best, relegating more and more young American students to the middle or bottom rungs of the ladder of international academic competitiveness. Because of an accelerating trend toward second-rate achievement in American schools, our teenagers will likely face increasing competition from more capable, better trained, more highly motivated foreign students clamoring to enter top American universities in the coming decades.

Our personal and national economic interests lie, therefore, in providing excellent basic education for our children, and on the rapid resuscitation of failing U.S. public schools. First of all, this means funding of good, public preschool programs for all youngsters in America, since universal preschool is by far the most powerful and cost effective way to quickly improve results in our schools, restore educational parity with the rest of the world, and ensure our future standing in the world economy.

Ultimately, American parents are the ones accountable for the success or failure of their own children. Following the bad examples of governmental leaders, corporate heads, sports figures, and others, Americans are becoming dishonest softies, for whom "playing by the rules" is only for fools, "discipline" and "rigor" are bad words, and "taking the easy way out" is the accepted norm. Parents who care and who know better simply cannot allow their children to fall behind in school. I'm always rather amazed and somewhat disheartened when perfectly capable high school students come to me for academic coaching addicted to their calculators (still not knowing their math facts by heart), unable to hand write legibly or organize their papers, etc. – that such basic deficiencies have been allowed to go uncorrected for so long.

In the current educational climate in America, often characterized by systemic sloppiness, grade inflation, cheating, corner-cutting, and general mediocrity, a good report card no longer guarantees actual competence or real accomplishment. Today, parents simply must take an intense interest in their children's early academic achievement. Without being obsessive, parents should micro-manage the progress of their children through the 6th grade, at least, to insure full mastery of essential academic skills. Otherwise, we as a nation risk losing the race in the new global market place. A cursory glance in the rear view mirror already shows China, India, and a host of other nations quickly gaining on us, threatening to take the lead.

More and more, it's all about basics.

And more than ever, it's more important than ever before.

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