The economy of this state can grow only if New Mexico is a place where businesses want to locate and people want to raise their families. We know that an education system that educates every child to world-class levels regardless of socio-economic status is absolutely necessary for this to occur. And we will not be silenced.
–from “Business Earned a Say in Education”, Guest Editorial, Albuquerque Journal, 2/15/09
Usually phrases like “we will not be silenced” are reserved for the truly disenfranchised and neglected in our society. I think it safe to say the “Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce” doesn’t quite fit that criteria. Terri Cole, Chamber Uber-Goddess, can’t pass gas without it becoming a TV sound bite or op/ed piece in the Journal.
So for the Chamber to write the above as if it is some Nelson Mandela jailed in Apartheid-era South Africa is rich. Very rich. There’s much to dissect in this Op/Ed, but I want to focus a word or two on “world-class levels” above.
Here’s the problem, or at least part of it. The Chamber and other users of phrases like “world-class levels” love spouting out figures about drop-out rates and such, but when asked to adequately fund things that actually will address drop-out rates balk and get all snippy.
What would actually lower drop-out rates? Dramatic expansion of things like high school apprentice programs tied directly to industry, such as those in Germany and Japan. Notice that we’ve spent considerable time/effort/a little bit of money tweaking a new college track based on Advanced Placement classes, lottery scholarships and such, but have done little to nothing to forge an apprentice track leading to careers that don’t need college.
Why this fixation on everybody going to college? Is it based on our glorious belief in the American Dream that anybody can make it this society? No, I’d say it’s based more on a desire to avoid spending the necessary dollars to provide meaningful training for a large percentage of our student body. A large percentage that invariably constitutes a huge, gigantic percentage of our dropouts.
If the Chamber wants to play the silenced victim, that will be good for some unintentional comedy, but if the Chamber really, really cared about both the drop-out rate and “world-class levels” it would quit just saying no to increased school funding and instead start offering to truly bridge the friggin‘ chasm between the workplace and New Mexico high schools. A chasm, by the way, that has nothing to do with standardized testing and other silly, inept attempts to make these edu-cheapskates supposedly feel better about our educational system.
And that bridge would be built, in part, with money. Money and innovation. Money the Chamber and like thinkers never want to spend, and innovation these bewailers of “world-class levels” couldn’t come up with if their educational policy hair was on fire.
So, dear Chamber folks, maybe you should just shut up. Keep your pie hole closed until you can quit the simplistic complaining, and really offer something meaningful (money included) to address drop-outs, school funding and K-12 education in New Mexico.