There are many problems that our new president will face on day one of his administration. The economy. War in Iraq and Afghanistan. Terrorism. Energy policy. Global climate change. Etc. And I, as an American voter, should expect that important issues will be addressed quickly, with the most urgent issues being tackled first. When I project to the first 100 days of the new president and speculate as to what will be his first, major policy undertaking – the one that will set to tone for his administration – I realize that there is one over-arching, all-important issue that serves as the foundation of solving all other issues.
Education is the only lever we can use to pry ourselves out of our current morass of apathy, stupidity, ineptitude, tomfoolery, flim-flam, and bullshit. An educated voting public is the one and only way to preserve and refresh our still-great-but-stumbling nation.
Education is the only pathway to break us out of the fool’s game of dogma, partisanship, and illusion. Skepticism and critical thinking are the only tools that a voter can use to make truly informed choices. Intellectual curiosity leads one to question each and every candidate on each and every claim and issue, to make truly informed decisions, and to eschew the hegemony of the Idiocracy.
But how do we get to the point where a discerning population of voters makes informed votes to give us effective leadership?
Well, how do we fix education? There are so many problems in our public educational systems that it’s like handing a lumberjack and ax and telling him to chop down the forest. Where to start? How about by announcing that the federal government will immediately match existing public school teachers’ salaries, effectively doubling their income? Make teaching a competitive career for truly sharp, motivated people. Back in the day I would have loved to teach, but not enough to sacrifice a lifetime of more than double the salary doing something else that I also love. And even if I had gone into teaching way back when, I’m sure I’d be out of it now that it has devolved into being minimum security prison guards getting ground down between apathetic parents, idealogical wars, dingbat board members, and impotent administrators.
But if we double teacher salaries, suddenly the best and the brightest might actually consider teaching our children. Suddenly the existing tiny core of truly effective, talented, and motivated educators would grow by leaps and bounds to include people across the spectrum of industries and avocations, and break the stranglehold that the mediocre have on the teaching profession in America today.
Seriously, when is the last time you met a truly exceptional public school teacher? Not exceptional when compared to other teachers, but exceptional when compared across the board with other professionals in all industries and career paths. Personally, I can count them on one hand. Now, how many public school teachers have you met that were unexceptional drones, and the only way you could stop the keening in your head was because they seemed, at the very least, harmless? I don’t have enough fingers, toes, and/or other appendages to even make a dent in that count. And that situation is the exact reverse of what we need – a mediocre teacher should be the exception, and the harmful teacher should be immediately rooted out and dismissed.
The bottom line is that if we want to return the United States to a position of leadership in the world, and we want to ensure our continued economic prosperity, and if we want to reclaim the moral high ground and become the “good guys” again, we need to start with the education of our children.
Is doubling teachers’ salaries the only step? No, it is only the first step, but it is one that needs to be taken.