“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.