Educating Our Youth (page 2)
What greater or better gift can we offer the republic than to teach and instruct our youth?
- Cicero, 106-43 B.C.E
The United States is a great nation, the most powerful and the wealthiest ever. Why then, when it comes to educational achievement, is our nation ranked near the bottom of a list of the world’s wealthiest nations – number 18 of 24 countries?
And why is Georgia ranked last among the 50 states in Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) average scores? It’s not that Americans don’t spend enough on education. We spend billions – a percentage of our national income that’s about the same as the average for the 23 other wealthy nations surveyed. Yet, again, we rank number 18 in educational achievement. And Georgia, in fact, spends more per pupil than 10 other southern states, all of which post SAT average scores higher than ours. So, why do we lag behind – as a nation and a state?
Maybe it’s partly because we’re spending more of our money– but investing less of our time and ourselves – in educating our nation’s children. Many of us are terribly busy just getting by. Others are preoccupied with demanding careers, as well as the hectic pace and unprecedented prosperity of life today. Flight from the urban center is another factor. When affluent families move from cities to suburbs, they often leave behind less-affl uent families – and fewer human and financial resources for city schools. Affluent families who choose to live in the city often send their children to private schools, further depriving public schools of vital resources.
Clearly, the challenge of educating our children today is too complex for simple analysis and easy answers. Yet, educators and communities nationwide are implementing effective solutions that address specific needs in specific places. While such successes offer a host of ideas for many other communities, one message is quite clear: As citizens of this great nation, as residents of various communities, and as members of diverse faith traditions, we must act.
Historically, faith communities have played a vital role in establishing and supporting schools. Colonial Americans founded the precursors to today’s public schools to teach children to read and understand the Bible. Church organizations established virtually all of our nation’s earliest colleges and universities.
Similarly, people of faith today must work in ecumenical and interfaith partnerships, and collaborate with government, business, community, and other organizations to improve our nation’s education system. Religious leaders must address the importance of supporting public education – in messages to their congregants and in public discussions of community issues. People of all faiths must speak out and embrace service and leadership roles on the crucial public issue of education.
Of course, there is no substitute for the parents of public school children being actively involved in educating their children. But the responsibility to ensure our nation’s future must be shared also by those who don’t have children in the public schools. For example, parents of private school children, people with no children, and senior citizens can help public schools in their neighborhoods. They can volunteer time, donate books, computers, and expertise, and serve in many other ways. The point is that the problems associated with educating our nation’s children will continue until entire communities, including congregations, invest more commitment and involvement in our public school system and in individual neighborhood schools. In fact, the issue is not fi nancial but moral. It’s not about money but about concern and involvement. The question isn’t whether we have the resources to ensure our nation’s future – but whether we care enough to do so.
Reprinted with the permission of Faith and The City. © 2000-2003 FATC
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