| Education is the key to a sane and civilized society. |
The data is clear: young people who do not get an education that means something to them are more likely to become addicts and/or criminals; older people who did not get a meaningful education and/or can not get one now are more likely to stay unemployed, addicted and/or in jail. Locking people up in Maine costs $44,000 per year per inmate; treatment for addiction is less though it does cost; welfare for the poor is a pittance but it does add up (and when we cut out welfare we add on crime - at a cost of $44,000/year/person). I know that some might disagree about the importance of education but in light of these connections and costs I honestly can not understand the opposing arguments. If we don't invest in meaningful education programs to turn children and adults into contributing members of society we will be paying up to $44,000 per year per person for an indefinite period with no gain to society. The choice is obvious. The legitimate disagreement is over what meaningful education consists of.
What education is NOT is forced memorization of unimportant data. I have a college degree in math, and can not for the life of me understand why anyone who truly dislikes numbers should be forced to master them. Education is NOT getting students to achieve high scores on flawed tests that measure test-makers' ability to sell their product. I got the highest SAT scores in my high school class and all that got me was a temporarily swelled head and a long-term uncertainty about what I wanted to do with my life.
What education IS is capturing the attention and imagination of students who will learn if you capture their attention and imagination. It is providing exposure to subjects that are considered important while recognizing that not all subjects will be important to all students, at that point or ever, and offering opportunities to learn in other areas as well. The arts are every bit as important as the sciences, because it is in the arts that personality and creativity often get developed. So-called vocational skills are every bit as honorable as "professional" training. And learning what it means to be a part of a community of equals and to get along with one's neighbors is every bit as important as course work.
Education is important for older as well as younger. School is thought to be important for children and so it is, but opportunities to learn are just as important for adults who are floundering or truly struggling and want a better direction or just a different direction. A mind is a terrible thing to waste, whatever its chronological age.
Education is too important to pay teachers pennies. Teaching is one of the most important professions there is. Far more important than my profession, lawyering. We probably can't pay teachers the hundreds of thousands of dollars aggressive lawyers can make - pity - but we should be prepared to pay enough to attract and keep as teachers those remarkable people who think that every mind is different and every mind is valuable.
Accordingly, I am opposed to No Child Left Behind. It is designed to leave behind those students who do not have both an aptitude for the subjects being tested and an ability to take the tests being administered; and to leave behind the schools that have and care about large numbers of such students. No Child Left Behind is about indoctrination, not teaching. (It is also about great profit for the test manufacturers, the largest of whom had connections to the Bush Administration.)
I am also opposed to school consolidation. The bigger the classroom, even the bigger the school, the less individualized teaching can take place, and teaching needs to be as individualized as possible. Schools are community centers as well as places of instruction, and the closing of schools is an injury to a community. While I accept busing when it is necessary to achieve the diversity that is an essential part of a successful education I do not think students should be forced to endure long bus rides just to save the government money - that can not possibly improve the attitude towards education.
Maine needs to make public education a priority!
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