FAILING OUR CHILDREN
When I was a teenager, education was affordable. In California, where I grew up, the junior college system, the California State Universities, and the Universities of California combined to ensure that any of its sons and daughters who wanted to do so could have a college education. I could actually earn most of my tuition and fees myself through summer jobs. Even so, most people did not go to college. That was okay – back then society did not need that many people with college degrees, and good-paying jobs were plentiful.
By the time my children went to college it had become much more valuable, and more expensive. Paying for their education required their own summer jobs, plus extra earnings both from me and my wife. It easily was worth it. Their lives have been much more comfortable, and they have enjoyed many more opportunities than they would have without college. It also was worth it for America as we struggled to respond to demands brought on by new technologies and social challenges.
Soon my grandchildren will be ready for college. The value of college again has grown tremendously, not only to them individually, but also to society as a whole. It helps determine where new ideas will spring up and come to fruition. It is a major determiner in defining winners and losers in the national and global competition for economic growth. In the United States, though, it has become so incredibly expensive that many families are bewildered by how they will afford it for their children. We once were among the world’s best educated nations. Now, other countries are devoting their resources into ensuring that higher education is available to everyone, while costs here exclude far too many young people.
We in Alabama face even greater challenges. Success in college requires not only sufficient money to get there, but also the wherewithal to do the work. Despite that, we neglect year after year to improve the education our children receive in elementary and high schools. We remain among the worst states in America for quality of education. That is sad, and unfair. Our children are just as smart and ambitious as children anywhere. It is not they who are failing, it is we who are failing them.
We have spent generations fighting to give our children more opportunities than we had. Let’s not stop now.
Kenneth M. Hines, Chairperson
Limestone County Democrats