Businesses Need American Education to Be Great

Listening to the [2016] presidential debates, all [of] the candidates want to make America better than it is today. They want America to lead the world, not to follow. According to Ranking America, [the United States leads] the world with the largest prison population at 2,217,000 prisoners, followed by China at 1,657,812 and Russia at 646,085. We also [claim the world’s] highest divorce rate, […] and [we have] the most lawyers per person (one for every 265 Americans). [T]he one thing we do not lead the world in is education.

The […] United States is ranked [No. 14 in the world when it comes to education], according to Pearson, [which should serve as] a real wakeup call. […] South Korea is ranked first, followed by Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Finland, the United Kingdom and Canada. Pearson found that the top-ranked countries offer teachers higher status in society and have a culture emphasizing education. [T]o think—just three decades ago, the United States was ranked first in the world [for education], and, if we could’ve hung onto that ranking, education would be a nonissue in this year’s elections.

[I]n 1990, the U.S.A. ranked first in the world in four-year degrees attained; today, we sit at No. 12. […] [Just last year], Atlas reported the U.S. government spent […] $154 billion […] on educational accounts, including the Department of Education, school nutrition programs, Head Start, student loan subsidies and veterans educational benefits. Education costs were 4.2% of the total budget, [a percentage surpassed by more than] 100 other countries worldwide. […]

The connection between a good education and income is overwhelming. Today’s working adults ages 25 to 34 with a bachelor’s degree earn [an average of] $46,900 [annually], while those with an associate’s degree earn $35,700 [per year]. High school graduates earn $30,000 [annually], and the median is $22,900 [per year] for those without a high school diploma.

Business leaders recognize that U.S.-based firms cannot compete without an educated populace and a skilled workforce, according to Harvard Business School. Of the 34 countries that signed the Convention for Economic Corporation and Development, [the] United States [ranks] 27th in mathematics, 17th in reading and 20th in understanding science. […]

How can we reverse this slide? [Your initial response may be to] throw more money into education, but that is not the right answer. America is the greatest, most technologically advanced country in the world, and we need to put this advantage to work in all schools. […] [O]ur schools need to let go of archaic practices and embrace technology to engage students, connect learners with educators, and invest in redesigning traditional school models that embrace the Internet and technology. Our own kids are way ahead of us on this. When you see a three-year-old teaching her grandmother how to use the Internet, you know this new generation is ready for just about any technology our schools can throw their way. Once we wake up and realize that our kids can use modern technology to learn the sciences and math in an engaging, relevant and personalized learning experience, this newest generation will drive us back to being No. 1 in the world. [D]on’t [think] that technology [alone can] enhance our kids’ experience; […] the real keys to strong schools are great teachers and principals who can implement technology creatively and efficiently.

During this election year, we can’t count on Congress to help our schools with additional funding in the near future. Our teachers take an average of $513 out of their own pockets [every year] for classroom supplies, […] instructional materials and books—[w]e cannot ask for more from these dedicated public servants. [I]t is up to concerned citizens, parents and business owners to make a difference for our kids. The nonprofit NPower has [a] community corps skill-based volunteering program engaging technology professionals with our schools, so if you are not technologically inclined, you should donate to help them help others. believes that every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science, so donate to help this cause. […]

One or two business leaders are not going to make a difference in fixing our educational system. It is a country mindset that needs to permeate every school in every city like the attitude found in all the countries now beating us. Our past presidents have set national goals, and we, as a country, have risen up to achieve these goals. Think of Roosevelt taking on the Great Depression or Kennedy telling America we will land a man on the moon by the end of the decade. During this upcoming national election, we need a candidate who truly wants to take America back to being the No. 1 educational country in the world. We know that a better-educated populace will create new businesses and higher-paying jobs that will lift our entire economy. Every business person I know wants that for their company and for their kids.

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