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Dire Consequences: What Will the World be Like in 10 Years if We Don't Face the Future Together as Partners?

Jun 22, 2008
Budget cuts, home foreclosures on the rise, and declining school enrollments in a weak economy send out a clear message - American schools are in trouble. A clear and present crisis confronts American education. High dropout rates and teacher layoffs in some states create a negative ripple effect that travels far beyond the public school system.

"Just wait. The pendulum will swing and everything will return to normal."

The statement above is an old adage that no longer applies in 2008. What is the cost of waiting for that pendulum to swing? What will this world look like in 10 years without a concerted effort to support American schools?

Let's look at some probable outcomes:

* Fewer graduates will be prepared for the high-skill demands of the 21st century workplace. We all have a major stake in the product that comes from our schools. Rapidly changing technology requiring lifelong learning and training for most occupations provides a great incentive for business to collaborate with education as partners.

* The American worker will be displaced by skilled employees from other countries. Even today a foreign accent often greets us when we seek technical advice by telephone. Medical doctors and other health personnel are often from India or Asia. Foreign students outnumber American students enrolled in engineering programs at some of our finest universities.

* Finding and retaining good teachers will become increasingly difficult. The number of new teachers attracted to the education profession is diminishing. Combine this with the impending retirement of baby boomers and a high attrition rate and we have a serious problem. Why are teachers not attracted to the profession or leaving prematurely? In a 2007 report from the Center for Teacher Quality at CSU-Sacramento it was found that teachers are more concerned about working conditions than salary (California Educator, February 2008). Working conditions include workplace safety, having a voice in curriculum content and instructional strategies, and receiving support and respect from the community.

* America will lose its competitive edge in the global marketplace Well paying jobs will be available to well-educated and well-trained workers. Those who are uneducated, untrained and unskilled will find it more difficult to compete for good jobs with a higher salary and be condemned to lives of poverty.

These predictions are dismal but true unless effective intervention begins now. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) narrowly focuses on test results leaving far too many children behind! Programs that motivate and inspire students to stay in school and perform (art, music, athletics and career-tech education) have often been put on the chopping block because of NCLB. Frustrated educators who have been forced into this narrow corner, have worked hard to comply with this federal mandate but realize it's time for change.

Education is our vital link to the future. Invoking structured partnerships between schools, businesses and the community at large can mitigate many of the problems we face in education. We cannot wait for the swing of the pendulum. It is time to change direction from a path of educational isolation and the narrow focus of NCLB to a destination of success through school-business partnership and collaboration. The book Facing the Future Together: Forming Successful School-Business Partnerships is an easy-to-follow guide to building better schools and a stronger business community through partnership.
About the Author
Jim Leatherwood is the author of Facing the Future Together: Forming Successful School-Business Partnerships. Website: Successful School Business; E-mail: thebrookepress@aol.com.
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