As a teacher for over 20 years, including working in New York, Tennessee, Michigan and, primarily, in North Carolina, I am very worried about the future of our country from the standpoint of the demise of the proper education of our future adult citizens.
Our state and our country are at a crossroads in history...this is not an embellishment or a hyperbole...we literally are at a point when what we do now will determine the success or failure of this democratic experiment we call the USA. But, more, these consequences will be felt very soon, one way or the other.
Why now? We have become a ship adrift without a crew that has the essential tools to navigate. Our voters are undereducated, our workers are undereducated...we have few members who even have a sense that the ship is taking on water, or have any idea what to do about it. All of our problems, whether economic, environmental, medical, educational, social, judicial or otherwise, are rooted in the deteriorating educations being offered our children.
This is not the place for discussing the overhauling of the educational system...long overdue as it is. We need now to put our hands on the wounds and stop the bleeding. Throwing money at these problems or allocating funds to one issue over another is not the answer. Certainly, there must be tough choices in difficult financial times. But, now is not the time to further undermine the foundational elements of our future. Education has to be our primary concern. Education is how we fix the future!
There are already two to three generations of children moving into the work force without fundamental skills. These generations will cost immense amounts of funding for many reasons. They will turn to welfare, public funded health care, the courts, and prisons (very sadly), while they produce little, if any, income/revenue for the state and nation. We cannot pretend these things are not and will not happen. The predicate responsibility lies with you and the choices you make as our representatives. How you allocate funds is enormously consequential at this moment in history...and you must do everything you can to support the foundation that under-girds our welfare, our democracy: education.
To this end you must fund education as fully as you can. Included in this is the on-going support for developing professional teachers within our state. Colleges and institutions which develop our teachers must be at the top of the list for funding.
As an example of this, in my own experience, I have had the chance to attend an NCCAT seminar for professional development. I first heard about NCCAT when I was teaching at Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama in 2002. Teachers of the Year from across the country meet there each summer as part of their year of learning. I heard from them that their last stop was to be NCCAT in Cullowhee. They viewed this as the best moment for their year and were amazed that I, being from North Carolina, had not heard of NCCAT before. They told me that NCCAT is unique and envied across the country by other boards of education, governors, and teachers. After attending a seminar on Alternate Energy sponsored by the federal Department of Energy (DOE), I was sold on this and on the need for my continued education as a teacher.
The gloves have to come off now...we are in a fight with destiny and our best weapons are knowledge, skills, and continuing education. Please support our schools, please support organizations like NCCAT which develop teachers, please think of the future when you sit down to make your decisions. These are not easy decisions...you can't help disappointing some. You must lead this state by being courageous, by making the choices that will improve our chances for prosperity over the long term. Nothing is more important than educating our children.