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Public Education Can Save Our Country

Public education is broken. I wanted to grab your attention with something much more impactful. But the way I see it, what has more impact than the absolute and simple truth? Our public education system is broken and it has been for a long time.

Some of us believe it is the responsibility of our elected officials. Others think our communities can fix it. Parental involvement is the answer for many. “If only we had more funding” is another cry. They are all right.

Of course, the debate continues about No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Remember, this is the measure which was passed in January 2002 during the Bush Administration. It requires states test all students in certain subjects every year to be sure they are prepared for college. I don’t believe the problem is entirely about NCLB; it’s about public education in general. However, this initiative has had such an impact, mentioning one practically begs a mention of the other.

NCLB was supposed to fill in the gaps of public education. It was likely intended to do just as it says…leave no child behind. The goal is admirable, but the execution has a detrimental effect on how children are taught. We tried to solve the problem with one sweeping measure. There is no one answer and no one entity with the complete solution.

The reason I see the problem of public education in the United States as a national issue, and not an individual, family, group, regional, or even state issue, is very simple. Let me use myself as an example. I am not an educator or a student. I do not have a child in the public school system, or any school system. But I am a citizen of this country and have a vested interest in its present well-being and hope for its future. So, it is my problem. It is our problem.

We all know the future of this country and our place in the world depends on our children. How they fare and compete on the world’s stage depends on their access to quality education. That is why I am so afraid.

We are not preparing our children to compete. We are not teaching them to think. We are not teaching them to react. We are not teaching them to create. We are not teaching them at all. We are preparing them for tests. We are filling them with facts, having them regurgitate them at the appropriate time, in the appropriate format to attain the appropriate score.

Creativity, individuality, and inventiveness are practically discouraged. If a child shows too much individuality in the way she learns, acts, or interacts, she is considered inappropriate. She is relegated to a special class, isolated, or even worse, medicated.

We live in an age of entrepreneurs and innovators. The time has passed when we stay on a job at a factory for 25-30 years or even in a corporate cubicle for that long. We are not training our children to be innovative in the workplace, or to build businesses like the type built by the entrepreneurs and solopreneurs that are the backbone of my own industry, virtual business assistance.

The Public Education Network’s (PEN) National Survey of Public Opinion lists 10 key findings in its Survey of Public Opinion about our responsibility for our educational system. Top among those were:

1. Education continues to be a top national priority, even in the midst of war and concern about the economy, joblessness, and healthcare.

2. Americans want funding for public education protected from budget cuts, and they want to see more public investment in education.

3. The jury is still out on No Child Left Behind. [1]

What does this tell us about what we need to do to fix our broken system?

We have to stop making education a mere campaign promise and make it a policy priority for our elected officials. Any official who does not fulfill his promises to improve public education, especially our national officials, should not be re-elected.

Realize quality education comes at a cost. We must be willing to pay our teachers a competitive wage so that we can attract the best and brightest…or provide tax and other benefits to supplement their salaries. Be open to studying tenure and pay for performance as options for teachers. Even if these are not the best or only options for improvement, let’s at least consider them and be open to new, inventive options.

Consider a moratorium on NCLB, nationally, or on the state or local levels. This measure affects too many of our children to continue with so many unsure of the long-term consequences. If a moratorium is not practical, at least reconsider the amount of funding for the program so that schools are able to place more focus on traditional or creative teaching methods as well.

The results of the 2008 National Poll and the Civic Index for Quality Public Education conducted by the PEN shows that over 63 per cent of us do not think public officials are held accountable for the status of public education. Four in 10, nationally, and over one third of local respondents think our schools are declining. [2]

We have an election coming up on November 2, 2010. Let’s not forget education when we go to the polls. We can save the future of our country.

[1] 2004 NATIONAL SURVEY OF PUBLIC OPINION Learn. Vote. Act. The Public’s Responsibility for Public Education

[2] Public Education Network, Community Accountability for Quality Schools, Results of the 2008 National Poll and the Civic Indexor Quality Public Education

Five Important Senior Travel Tips

Often when we near retirement, seniors have big dreams of all the places they want to visit. However, as we get older, traveling often isn’t quite the delight we hoped it would be. Although it can be great fun traveling to new places and meeting new people, the logistics of traveling can be challenging for many seniors.This is especially true if you are traveling alone. However, with some advance planning, you can make your next trip much more pleasant and enjoyable. Here are some travel tips that I follow myself, to make sure my trips are as enjoyable as possible.First, consider your particular health conditions. If you need to take medication daily and you are traveling internationally, it is important to make sure that you always carry medications and copies of your medication list with you at all times. Never check your medications in airline baggage, as you may be facing a life threatening situation if your baggage gets lost.Second, plan well in advance. Although spontaneity is great for many things in life, as we age, making well thought out travel plans is very important. This is especially true for those who face mobility challenges. For example, if you have trouble standing in lines for a long time or climbing stairs, then you will want to avoid situations that requires this. Ask the questions you need to ask before you leave on your trip.Third, make back up plans as well. Even the best plans can backfire, and having a contingency plan for when things do not go as planned is important as well. Although the idea of making not one, but two (and maybe even three) travel itineraries may seem overwhelming, if things go wrong you will be very happy you made the effort.Four, travel as lightly as possible. You do not need the added difficulty of lugging heavy bags around. There are some wonderful new luggage models that have very useful features such as wheels and multiple handles. Don’t go with the cheapest you can find either, as you want your luggage to be durable and last.Finally, always think about safety. Seniors are often the target of pickpockets and thieves. Consider investing in a money belt, and maybe even carry a decoy purse or wallet with only a little money in it in case you get robbed.With proper thought and preparation, you will find that your journeys are much more comfortable, safe and enjoyable!