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Behind the front page: Education is more than an economic issue
Nov 02, 2012 | 957 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print

By REBECCA PALMER

Clipper Editor E
ducation funding has been one of the most hotly debated issues in this season’s political campaigns, and rightly so. As almost all candidates for federal, state, local or school board office will tell you, the things we teach today’s students are directly correlated with our collective future. If we don’t do better in career readiness, science and math, we will be eclipsed economically by developing nations such as China and India, politicians assert.

It’s true. If our best and brightest minds can’t compete with the best from other countries, our economy will surely decline. We must compete in brains, brawn, innovation and more.

It’s also true on an individual level. Communities work best when each person has something economically valuable to contribute, because then individuals have access to their own money. That comes with choices and freedoms for all.

However, putting too much focus on the economic reasons for improving education is problematic. So is equating trade certifications with college educations, as Utah Gov. Gary Herbert seems to be doing in his Prosperity 2020 initiative, which lumps all postsecondary training together in one measure.

We must also remember that one of the primary reasons for becoming educated is to learn how to live, how to create a good life. Life is about more than money.

School shouldn’t just be about learning how to perform a trade or how to calculate the area of a cube. It should teach foundational principles that students can build upon throughout their lives.

For this reason, I strongly support the study of history, English, psychology, philosophy and world religions, and public funding for robust teaching of these subjects. Few jobs require familiarity with Kant’s categorical imperative or Rousseau’s social contract, but our lives do require us to make moral decisions and to participate in our communities. Our educations should prepare us for that.

Programs that push low-level A-Plus Certifications for computer workers or CNA programs that lead to low-wage medical jobs aren’t bad, but we shouldn’t equate them with funding well-rounded higher education in universities and state colleges.

Not all of us will be engineers, mathematicians, or even business leaders. But every person in our community deserves to have an education that opens his or her mind to all the possibilities the world has to offer.

Economics are important, and so are jobs, but we are more than just money-making creatures. If we allow our politicians to forget that, I fear that our education system will follow suit. As all candidates say, society as a whole would align with that. The old saying that money can’t buy happiness is true for communities too. 

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