The United States has dropped to number 12 of countries with the highest number of young educated people. We have always parroted the phrase that someone who needs work in this country needs to get an education. While we laud the value of education, the truth is that the highest paid individuals in our country are our uneducated rock stars, athletes, and celebrities, most of whom make more money than our scientists, doctors and, most persuasively, our schoolteachers. Is there anyone more valuable than the kindergarten teacher whose influence on children plays out for an entire lifetime? And yet, perversely, even in the educational system, teachers are paid higher increments as their students get older and the teacher spends less time with individual students.
But back to our subject of having an educated populace.
It has become increasingly difficult to claim that we value education at a time when we have dropped to number 12 in having educated young people. And the real message behind that is that many of our young people get it, and suspecting that we really do not have much respect for education, are no longer trying to make the grade.
Things must change. But not only in attempting to convince young people to stay in school and grab that high school diploma in order to continue on into the world of higher education. As a society we must demonstrate that we truly do value education. That does not come about by glorifying the ignorant. We recently had a vice presidential candidate who almost seemed defiantly proud to know nothing of world affairs, and rationalized quitting her elected position to head on down to the lower 48 to make her fortunate. Instead of working on becoming an informed citizen, she lent her name and head shot to a ghostwritten book, got ghostwritten op ed articles published in the Washington Post and generally became a celebrity, earning millions. Based on what? It sure wasn’t the hard work our forefathers envisioned for the citizens of this young democracy. But she is not alone.
Do we really believe that Lady Gaga is more important than, let’s say, a local policeman or firefighter? Some would say the bottom line is money, and she is a moneymaker, so, yeah, maybe she is more important. But that system of thought makes it a self-fulfilling prophecy that could have just as easily been another system. We must as a country, and a society that likes to think of itself as educated, work to have education be accepted as a higher priority. Not just as lip service but as fact.
Our children must be encouraged to become, not rock stars, athletes, or reality show “stars,” but people who contribute more directly to our society. Angelina Jolie may seem like an angel making millions of dollars and then visiting poor countries and even adopting babies from some of these far-flung places. But the people who toil daily in our schools, hospitals and labs need the respect and remuneration that doesn’t perpetuate the myth that education counts. Some of our brightest angels are anonymously working selflessly for the betterment of our country rather than the self aggrandizement so prevalent among too many of our young people.