The Challenge of Education

I watched Arne Duncan on Charlie Rose the other day talking about his new job as Secretary of Education in the Obama administration. To say I am encouraged and actually thrilled with the possibilities of what can be done is an understatment!

These guys have made it their mission to put public education on the FRONT BURNER for the US. What a concept! To many of us, it is a no-brainer, but to the previous administration and to the people who vote where to put our dollars, it has appeared to be very low on the priority list.

I volunteer (and serve on the board of) Avance, a very forward thinking (thus the name) non-profit committed to early childhood education in the underserved low-income hispanic community of Dallas. I have a selfish reason for doing this, along with my desire to “give back” to my hometown. The children of this sector are going to grow up and vote in the elections that determine the direction of our city and state. These children are the future employees of my business community. These children are my future!

And so are ALL the children who are growing up in urban areas across the US–many of whom are so sadly led to believe that life in a gang is preferable to getting a great education.

I have heard all the arguments about self-motivation and why the more conservative elements in our society don’t want to create a welfare state. But if we don’t help children get quality education and access to different life opportunities, won’t they be more likely to turn to the government to support them? I truly believe to offer and support quality education is the fastest way to build a strong society of self-determined, responsible citizens.

The same day this program aired on Charlie Rose I had the honor of listening to John Wood, author of LEAVING MICROSOFT TO CHANGE THE WORLD. John founded Room to Read after trekking in Nepal and discovering village after village where children had no access to books or educaiton. In the 10 or so years of its existence, Room to Read has opened 7000 libraries and 2000 local schools, collaborating with villages and local citizens to improve the possibilities for their children, to date mostly in Asia and Africa.

This will change the future of our world. And we have the opportunity to do the same thing here in the US by supporting, learning about and actually insisting that the innovations the new administration develops are given the time and space to work. It will take more than the two terms of the current president. It will take 15 to 20 years for the effects of these efforts to come to fruition. So we have a challenge ahead of us to not allow the status quo to interfere with true progress.

I believe our quality of life in the future depends on it!