Education is the foundation of all civilization. Without education, without the dissemination and expansion of knowledge, our societies would never have come out of the jungle, out of the rift valleys, out of the deserts and caves -- without education, we will once again be forced to devolve into small tribes and bands of humans who are wary of each other, who are again afraid of the dark and of the thunder and lightning and who do not know why the sun rises each day, why the seasons change, wonder what those points of light are in the night sky. In order to promote our continued existence, education is not an option, it is nothing that should only be provided to those who can afford it -- it is now, and has always been, as basic a need as clean water, air, and food. We must as humans come together in the realization that education is a right, a fundamental human right that should be written into the constitution as surely as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, because without education, the struggle for life, liberty, and happiness becomes an almost impossible challenge. Those who want to deny you the equal opportunity for education are in fact destroying your ability to successfully strive for life, liberty, and happiness -- they are removing your basic human right to information, to knowledge, to bettering not only yourself but those around you, those whom you may never meet, the whole of humanity. Keep a watchful eye on those who would deny you any basic right, and for certain, education is one of those. I fully endorse whatever means there are available in order to provide educational opportunities to everyone who wants them.
Early Childhood Education and K-12:
E.C.E. is a vital part of preparing children for further schooling. The first few years of a child's life will greatly determine their personality, along with their future success in learning. Because the minds of children are most influenced and flexible in their early years, providing the best possible environment for learning as soon as is feasible is of paramount importance to the nation. This is one of the very first steps we have available to help develop a positive future for our children who will eventually be taking care of us and creating policies that affect everyone else. If we do not invest the resources necessary to provide a positive and nurturing learning environment, we increase the possibility that some children who most needed encouragement and support at an early age will not live up to their full potential and may not be successful or as successful as they could have been with a more involved approach early on. The same goes for K-12 students and the funding necessary to fully supply the schools with qualified teachers and the facilities and tools required to properly do their jobs. Teachers should not have to go out and spend significant amounts of their own money on basic school supplies. We should definitely provide funding for ECE and K-12 programs as they directly impact the lives of the children and ultimately the rest of society as they grow up.
College should not be available to only those who can afford it, it must be made available to everyone who wishes to engage in furthering their education, whatever the field or pursuit may be. Education must be seen as a basic right, not a privilege of the economically able. If the ability to increase one’s knowledge is curtailed, and particularly only because of financial constraints, then this nation is headed for disaster, because all that will be left is a country full of ill-educated peasants toiling in the fields or factories that are owned by the wealthy landlords. Making any form of educational opportunity a matter of the haves versus the have-nots, we are going to run a steady downhill course of decline and decay, because without education, how will anything be accomplished? How will anything be built? How will there be any progress? It will all disappear without the benefit of fostering lifelong learning and giving people the opportunity to apply the knowledge they have acquired and the skills they have learned to better themselves and the society that they live in.
Class sizes should be limited in order to provide more individual student-teacher interaction which can ultimately help provide better outcomes. Having dozens of students in a single class being taught by a single teacher makes it very difficult for that instructor to be able to focus on the students that are going to require additional help with any given aspect of the material; and the more students there are for any single class, the greater the number of students that will require personalized assistance. Larger class sizes very quickly become a self-defeating proposition. I have yet to meet a teacher whose mantra is to provide average educational opportunities to most students and sub-standard opportunities to some because they have so many that they can’t afford to focus their limited time on those individuals. Education funding needs to increase so that we can train more teachers in colleges and hire more of those same people to instruct our children in classes of reasonable sizes.
Standardized testing can be useful as a starting point to help a teacher determine how each student is performing on a topic and who may require additional instruction. Standardized tests should not be the final word on achievement as all people have different capabilities. What they should be used for is an instrument to gauge the performance of a selected section of the learning population (any desired grade level) on a given topic that has been taught to all of those individuals. From those tests then comes information that can be used to help determine both the success of and the need for additional instruction for every individual who took the test. The results of the tests should be covered with a one-on-one meeting between the teacher and the student. The teacher would talk to the student about how they did in each area that was tested for, ask if they would like to have more help in ‘deficient’ areas, see if they are interested in additional instruction in areas that they did really well on, and see what their current goals are -- what subjects do they like to participate in? This sort of individualized progress conference will require class sizes to be smaller in order for the instructor to have the time needed to devote the necessary attention to each student. Standardized testing should most definitely not be utilized as the only and final arbiter of a child’s ability and a pigeon-holing tool that will end up diminishing the overall achievement of any given student.
The staggering amount of student debt currently on the books comes from the same unsupportable fiscal policies as those that continue to promote health care only for those people who can afford it. We like to think that the US is not a society based on class, but it surely is. And those class divisions are monetary. Disregarding for this particular discussion the barriers thrown up at people for gender or skin color or any other personal trait, it comes down to money -- if you have it or if you don’t. If you have money, you can afford to have higher education and the opportunities that may come from it. If you don’t have the financial wherewithal to pay for additional schooling, then your employment and social opportunities will be reduced in a commensurate fashion. So what do we do to have people try to receive additional schooling? -- we give them the opportunity to rack up huge credit debt that will have to be repaid with the addition of interest for the next decade or more of that person’s life. That is not acceptable. If we as a nation really want to be the best, we are going to have to make drastic changes to the way that we pay for services in this country. We are going to have to provide early childhood, primary, secondary, and college/technical school to everyone who wants it. We cannot be the best if we don’t have the technical skills and knowledge to fulfill that role, and education is where those capabilities come from.
Higher education should be available for anyone who wants it and in whatever discipline they want to focus on. I advocate for full equal opportunity for all to embark on a journey of higher education. This is an opportunity, not a mandate. There are plenty of people who do not want to continue on to college, or even on to a technical school. That is their right. However, there are also plenty of individuals who do want to continue their schooling in a given discipline. That should also equally be their right. Denying education to someone is not a good social policy. We should not stop our public education system at the end of high school by saying essentially “If you want more education, good luck ‘cause you’ll have to pay for it!” The Pell Grant is a great program that benefits many students, but not all because not everyone qualifies for it, and many who do still end up having to come up with the difference somehow, usually through loans. Our economy is plenty strong to be able to provide education for everyone who wants it, and we should make the changes necessary in order to see that it happens.
Education funding should be at the top of the list along with healthcare and infrastructure. Insufficient funding of education results in poor social outcomes for all citizens and must be avoided. Funding for education needs to be a priority. Cutting spending on education is purposely hobbling your future by financially penalizing the potential students through shortsightedness and an inability to realize and understand that without education, nothing else happens. I support a strong funding bill that supports all aspects of education, from early childhood education through college and technical schooling.
Employers must be vigilant about those they hire as Teachers, because these people are going to have a direct and long-lasting influence on every citizen of this country. Not just anyone can be an effective teacher, and not all teachers are effective at being able to convey information to students in a way that is understandable and absorbed. Thorough training of new teachers is of great importance, and thoroughly interviewing teachers is necessary in order to get the right people for the job. And not just any job, but that of an instructor -- someone who will be responsible for the opening of minds to new ideas and new ways of thinking that will ultimately determine the course of the nation. Funding for high-quality teaching programs is a must.