Education is the Primary National Product
We all have an obligation to work together to empower incoming generations to succeed
Education is the one of those rare things in which the more a person has, not only is the person better off, but so is everyone in the person’s immediate community and everyone in the nation.
Let us take a top down approach. We are no longer an insular nation where the economy was mostly dependent on its internal activities just a few decades back. Now, we are a member in a collective of nations, where the competitive edge of a nation depends on its performance and in coming up with things other nations want. When its products and services are unattractive the nation is no longer competitive, and its economy begins to fail. The only way to produce goods and services that are world class – so we don’t have to import them – is to make the best of class ourselves. In that goal a nation with more educated people wins because items that are on top of the technology stack command a premium and control a bigger chunk of the economy.
For example, modern financial services depend on computerized algorithms; car manufacturing is heavily automated with manufacturing robots; medicines, vaccines and health care are all deeply dependent on artificial intelligence.
Even large scale farming employs automated farming machinery that knows its position using sophisticated GPS devices integrated deep within their control systems – so sophisticated that they are accurate within inches unlike consumer GPS units whose best accuracy is a minimum of ten to twenty feet. You may not have realized this, but even the most basic GPS units need to compensate for curvature of space itself (remember Einstein!) that bends due to earth’s intense gravity.
Everything we do today, everything we take for granted as part of normal life, like cell phones, electric cars, the internet, 3D printers, exotic metals in electronics, are all made possible by years of study, education and research. Without this investment America would not be the leader we have been all these years.
Other nations are investing deeply into education for their people to compete with developed nations, while we are blissfully unaware of the nature of competition, and those nations are gaining successes in competitive, equivalent, or even superior products and services to the US.
This loss of American competitiveness is a double-edged sword. The market opportunities and premium for our products and services is disappearing and when other countries offer competitively superior (in price and performance) products we are forced to buy from them because other industries which depend on these raw materials, need the best to be competitive in their own offerings.
For example, to produce competitive electric cars we need to have competitive batteries. Making competitive batteries requires highly qualified and educated people to invent chemical formulae, enable manufacturing and mining of raw materials and to run the automation in manufacturing plants.
Now lets take a look at education from the individual perspective. Every organization, even the nonprofit and government organizations, not only for-profit ones, is directly or indirectly facing international competitors. To be successful against international competitions every organization needs competitively qualified employees and that directly connects to competitive levels of education. If the number of qualified people available are too few then these organizations are forced to employ qualified people from other countries or send jobs to countries where qualified pools of talent are available. Either way people in the US who are not prepared for internationally competitive jobs lose out on these opportunities. And that results in more losses. That cannot happen if our pools of talent are competitively qualified with education being a big component of competitive qualifications.
So many successful people today tell us about how they were the first generation in their families to succeed in going past high school and how education made it possible to break out of the cycle of generations of poverty. College education is necessary for most good jobs in the US today.
There are so many other benefits to a highly educated population including good decision-making when electing leaders in our government, and the quality of decision making on issues that face the nation.
There are many difficulties in accomplishing good educational goals and they include many barriers we have numbly accepted as normal. These include:
Wrong role models: When we are inundated by movies, tv, and media telling us successful people are either beautiful and good looking, a great sportsperson, or sharp business person, we want to hear that message because it doesn’t require facing steep challenges and hard work to get educated. When we like what we hear, the media is happy to keep repeating it and in an act self perpetuated fallacy the mindset reinforces itself.
We then end up spending a life time working to make those romantic visions real, but by definition there is only room for a few at the top, and in the meanwhile we have lost our opportunity for education and for building qualifications needed in the real world.
Career guidance and counseling: This is related to the concern above. We do not have enough numbers of knowledgeable career guidance counselors to explain to our kids and adults how their degrees help with their careers and what all these careers do. Careers are so complicated! Additionally they continuously evolve as our lifestyles, everyday technology and way of life continues to evolve.
Limited access to institutions and universities: America is a big country. Physically! We do not have enough institutions close by and easily accessible to everyone through daily commute. Many people cannot leave their homes, families and their work, to go attend universities full time in a distant place.
Qualified teachers: We need great teachers to staff universities and educational institutions. Without sufficient numbers of teachers it is impossible to staff the large numbers of institutions we need to provide an option for everyone who wants to pursue a degree.
Good preparation: Success in getting admitted and doing well in college requires that we do well in high school first. This is when we are most dependent as a growing child on our parents and guardians. Many children suffer broken homes, poverty, inadequate meals and nutrition, as well as inadequate examples in their lives of successful and confident adults.
Limited broadband internet: It is getting easier to get access to a good educational programs online these days. But that is difficult for so many people as they do not have access to connectivity or adequate speeds for the Internet. This is a serious problem because in this day and age it is impossible to read and learn the material needed for studies without the Internet.
Cost of a college education: This is the big one! College is expensive in the US. And this includes tuition, books, room and food, healthcare, living necessities, all add up to a formidable number. There are so many people who emerge from college with such heavy debt that they never manage to pay it back, at least for most of their young lives when they should be building for the future. A spark blown out early never manages to light the candle.
There are many philosophies in our country towards accomplishments, social nets, the role of government and so on. It is difficult to find consensus that is acceptable to the different views. That is the first problem to solve. Getting everyone on the same page so we can act!
Because not everyone can be born to wealthy families, and young people haven’t lived long enough to pay for their own education. Education is best acquired early in life to provide for a long productive career. The burden of life-long college debt is unacceptable. And everyone deserves equal access to quality education, successes of individual talent, individual commitment and their hard work, born into money or not. Inherited wealth should enable an advantage in building wealth, but the opportunity for education should not be dependent on the parents’ successes. Because while wealth is a personal asset and private endeavor, the brain and its accomplishments in skills, arts, talents including Nobel prizes and medals, is a national asset and national endeavor. Every child’s education should start with a clock reset.
I believe that since the upcoming generation is the one that is expected to operate America, which then pays for the generation that rests in retirement, it requires us to ensure we empower incoming generations to do their best, and education is the safest guarantor of that.
This is a social contract between generations, and social contracts require the participation of governments, because it is difficult to to create private sector entities. for-profits or non-profits, that can dutifully discharge on this social contracts between generations with fairness to the innate ability of the person, not the person’s circumstances. We need enablement programs like careers support and scholarships that capture the interest of students, inviting and encouraging them to succeed. After all, that is what great parents do!
Lack of good education is a vicious spin cycle. It limits our potential as an individual, as a community, as a business, as government and ultimately as a nation. We all have an obligation to work together to empower incoming generations to succeed, because they will be the face, body, and soul of America tomorrow.