BY SHARON MARTIN
When the visiting priest from India told us that 65% of the children in his country lack the ability to go to school, I wondered, “Does India have a Department of Education?”
What happens when a country doesn’t pay attention to the education of every child? I’m thinking India may answer that question for us. I’ve been there. I’ve seen dirty-faced youngsters dodging traffic to beg in the streets.
Upper class Indians send their children abroad to complete their education. Middle class Indian children sport school uniforms and learn their lessons in English. Everyone else can go to hell.
This is a lesson in consequences for those who want to privatize education in this country. Here, if you feel moved to home school your children, you have every right. Or you can send your children to a private school provided you afford the tuition. For everyone else, there are public schools.
It should be with great pride that we say, “Every child in America has the right to a good education.” But do we fulfill this promise our government has made to its citizens?
When we fail to educate children, we pay the piper in failed lives and productivity long after the dance is over. A superintendent whose students participate in the Scared Straight program told me this fact: The average reading level of inmates in Oklahoma is 4th grade. What affect might that have on their decision to turn to crime? What kind of job can one get without reading skills? Without a diploma? With a criminal record? How might this change if every school in Oklahoma could afford to hire a reading specialist and a librarian? What if we could give each student exactly what he or she needs to succeed?
We will pay one way or another. We can pay for education now or we can pay in lost tax revenues later. We can offer opportunity through education or pay for the results of crime or helplessness later. Education is an investment, not an expense.
We are all better off when everyone is educated. When we expand the wage pool, more people pay into the system and fewer people take free money out. More people lead successful, fulfilled lives and contribute back to the society that nurtured them. Isn’t that what all of us want?
– Sharon Martin lives in Oilton, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer