The crisis facing all of us: education

“Tip” O’Neill, former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, said it best: “All politics is local.” Maybe that’s why there is so little attention being paid to the crisis in education during this presidential campaign. And that’s a shame. The crisis in education involves our young people, the viability of American businesses and the very future of our democracy.

Wow. I guess the absurdity of debating whether or not we are drifting toward socialism after we have just nationalized the banks and Wall Street (and with the auto industry lined up at the public bailout trough) provides more compelling fodder for the TV talking heads. But folks. The issue should be education.

And it is getting some attention — locally. The U.S. Conference of Mayors, according to a story in The Wall Street Journal, is now tackling the very serious problem of high school dropouts. Some are even going door to door “personally encouraging students to stay in the game for their own good — and for the sake of the city.”

Consider this. Research sponsored by America’s Promise Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy group and a partner of Corporate Voices for Working Families, shows that in the nation’s 50 largest cities, the graduation rate is just 52 percent. In the time it took me to write this — about 40 minutes — about 300 teenagers will have dropped out of high school, never to return. That’s on average 7,000 each and every day.

This has implications for young people who will struggle to find and hold jobs and who will forfeit as much as $300,000 over the course of a working lifetime. It has implications for businesses that will need at some point to replace the someday-to-be-retired baby boomer generation. And it has implications for our democracy where we rely on informed decisions and citizen involvement.

These are the issues McCain and Obama should be addressing.

If not, then we are going to have to hope that “Tip” O’Neill was right and that the solution to the education crisis — like politics — is local.


5 responses to “The crisis facing all of us: education

  1. Dropping out of public education schools to pursue alternative education opportunities is commendable. The potential, challenges, and obstacles that currently litter the public education landscape are discussed in the novel, The Twilight’s Last Gleaming On Public Education. This intriguing, socially relevant, and enlightening story possesses many of the elements commonly found in just about every school system throughout the United States. It is must reading for every parent and grandparent with school aged children. Copies are available online via,, or Check it out for youself. Discuss it with your friends. See if you can relate to the situations and characters presented. See if you agree with the proposed solutions.

  2. I’m sure this comment is essentially a promo for the book. But, hey. That’s the fun of social media.

    And I don’t worry about those who drop out of public education to pursue alternative educational opportunities. But I do worry a lot about those who drop out with no place to go — and then have no opportunities.

  3. Unfortunately, for the Mr. Ed Bookeds of the world, social media is perhaps a little too widespread! In an enlightening comment on a post over at the Five Public Opinions blog (, Mr. Booked didn’t quite read through their website before posting this little gem: “Perhaps nothing is more detrimental to the well being of society than ignorant people who persistently substitute their own interpretations for the messages contained in Holy Scripture. For more than 2000 years people have been trying to read their own messages into scripture, rather than take out the messages the original authors intended.” Ooops—it’s an “agnostic atheist” blog that discusses politics, philosophy, science and education! Of course Bookend goes on to write the same promotional encouragements for his own pamphlet, and the bloggers there have some great responses to his misplaced spam. Social media or social media consequences at its most entertaining!

    Anyway (sorry, people panning their e-books with titles taken from the Star Spangled Banner really annoy me!) Actually, I think that your statistic about 7,000 students dropping out every day is absolutely terrifying. How can it not be a priority? How can it not affect the larger community, business community, and ultimately the country as a whole?

    I truly truly hope that education will be a priority, especially at the local level. I hope that those dangerous pinko socialists who get elected will actually solve something for once. And in an attempt to not get too worked up, I’m going to go put the finishing touches on my “novel”—The Twilight’s Last Gleaming: Salad or Sandwich for Lunch.

  4. Yeah, most of the online “marketing” is just spam. The early promise of the Internet — and later blogs — was the possibility of interaction via conversations. Don’t think that is likely. And the problem with education — and high school dropouts — is real, and scary.

  5. I was glad to see WSJ picking this story up — you can’t put together any kind of economic recovery package without considering the education component. It’s bizarre how little attention has been paid to education this cycle, and it seems mostly focused on higher-ed.

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