Opinion: Why we should focus on America’s educational system

Education is everything. It is the foundation of a society. It seeps into every facet of life. I am a strong believer that a country with a well-educated population is a strong, need I say great, country.

That’s why I believe if we are going to “make America great again” we need to focus on our education system.

Recently, there has been a focus on Americans’ health issues and health care policy. However, if you take a step back, I think there is a broader way to help fix many health issues in America simply by focusing on education. As Former First Lady Laura Bush once said, “There is a very close tie between good health and a good education.”

The United States’ Supplemental Nutrition Education Program (SNAP), an entitlement program focused on feeding low-income Americans, has a second program called SNAP-Ed. The goal of SNAP-Ed is to help educate SNAP participants on healthy eating practices. This pushes those on SNAP to live healthier lives while simultaneously helping food-insecure individuals. By improving the nutrition health status of low-income Americans you are going to help decrease the need for costly healthcare.

If more people in America were better educated, whether it be on nutrition or simply in general, a lot of problems would likely decrease, such as obesity, the spread of STDs, unplanned pregnancies and thus abortions, unemployment rates, homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual assault, school shootings and… well, the list is endless.

Another thing Bush eloquently said was, “Education is the Key. With a really good education, you have a much broader view of the world. Well educated people can seek help for themselves. They can help others.”

She is correct. Educated people help others help themselves. If you think of all the wonderful programs that help those in need– from the Salvation Army to Global Health Corps (a stellar organization started by none other than Bush’s daughter Barbara Bush), they were all started by a group of well-educated individuals.

I attribute all my successes in life largely to two factors– attending top-tier schools from kindergarten to college, and my parents’ realization of the value of an education, which led them to invest in mine. I know for a fact I would be nowhere without my parents and my education. 

I realize how privileged I am to have had parents that worked hard to privatize my entire education. It is my dream that a larger population of America can also indulge in such an education. Now, I am not implying everyone should attend private schools and that private schools are always superior. I simply think more effort needs to be put into making public education stronger, as well as into making private schools more easily available for Americans. 

Like with any industry, competition is key to increasing the quality of a good or service. This is why I think school choice is a good idea. However, school choice raises an entirely different a debate, which I will discuss at another time.

Whether you support school choice or not, it is undeniable that something needs to be done to help schools. There are large disparities in the education received by students in higher socioeconomic communities versus those in low-income ones.

Let’s take a step back to the presidential campaign of 2004 between John Kerry and George W. Bush. During a debate in Arizona, Bush said that reading is the new civil rights issue of the century.

“You cannot solve a problem unless you diagnose the problem,” he said. 

Bush explained that the only way to ensure people have jobs in the 21st century is through a strong education system and critically closing the minority achievement gap. If this gap is not closed these students will be unable to compete with their peers.

So, you ask, what did Bush do about this issue?  He signed No Child Left Behind (NCLB) into law.

NCLB increased the federal government’s role in schools. And, while I am largely an advocate for limiting the government’s involvement, I think in this case it was important for the government to step in. Like I said at the start of the article, the country’s education system is crucial. I think it is part of the government’s role to see that Americans are well educated. Not because it is the right of everyone to have the best education known to man, but because the government should want what is best for the country, and a good education is just that.

NCLB put a focus on special education students, minority, poor and those learning English, since these were the students lagging behind the rest. This focus is an attempt to close the minority achievement gap.

America’s education expenditure as of 2013 was at 4.9 percent of the GDP, placing us in 63rd place. If we are going to “make America great again” that is not going to cut it, folks.

A 2017 Pew Research Center study showed that the U.S.’ academic achievement level fell in the middle of all countries in regards to reading, math and science. Just a few of the many countries ahead of us were Vietnam, South Korea and Macau in science; Poland, Estonia and Tai Won in math; and Slovenia, Norway and Canada in reading. Singapore reigned the top of all stats. 

My point is this: maybe if we stopped putting so much energy into all the controversial issues where things pass or don’t pass based on a single vote and instead put our efforts towards something less controversial but just as equally important and impactful we could see the change we all want to see.