November 27, 1993
By Yolanda Reynolds
Crime is now the leading concern among Californians, according to reports from the Field Poll.
Following closely behind crime on the Public’s list is the economy and education.
For many, it is the availability quality and accessibility to education at all levels that is an influence on attempts to resolve the problems of crime, the stagnant economy, and under- or unemployment.
According to a recent report entitled, “The Closing Gateway”, prepared by the California Higher Education Policy Center; the state and local policy makers who have “acquiesced in rolling back opportunity (to higher education) and sharply raising its prices as responses to the State’s ﬁnancial problems” are out of touch with the concerns of the public.
In the 1960’s, when the United States feared that it was losing the space race with the Union of Soviet Socialist Russia, it was primarily the educational system that policy makers turned to for help.
The nation needed engineers, and scientists of many different disciplines, along with a highly skilled work force. In order to insure an abundant supply of well-trained individuals the nation greatly increased its investment in education. It adopted the National Defense Education Act. Innovative instructional methodologies were introduced, the curriculum was revised and expanded and funds were made available, not only to schools and but also was awarded to students to attend college in record numbers. Special programs were introduced at the elementary and secondary levels.
The investment in education was well spent. By 1969, the United States was the first to land a manned flight on the moon.
At the same time, advances were made in medicine, and electronics research, and new scientiﬁc developments began to impact every facet of human endeavor.
In the meantime, the world began to change. Old orders and traditions were challenged by the young in both capitalist and communist countries the world over.
Major changes are still occurring the world over and times are unsettled. Education, more than ever, is important. The ability to communicate, a knowledge of history, and a sense of self-worth are all products of education and much needed in these unsettled times.
The passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement is just one of the changes that is occurring as nations seek to engage in mutually beneficial interaction.
Few disagree that education is fundamental to progress in both countries.
San Jose’s Mexican Consul, Arturo Balderas, says that without NAFTA, his government is doing all that it can to foster education. In Mexico, students are encouraged to become bilingual – learning not only Spanish but English. School attendance is required up to ninth grade and it is expected that the students will have studied Spanish literature and writing, science, and mathematics at least to trigonometry. Generally, schools require that the young students wear uniforms. Balderas says that that this greatly simplifies matters for the schools, the parents, and the students, since two sets of uniforms suffice for a year, thereby reducing the costs of clothing needed for school attendance. It also removes the competition among students for stylish school clothing. For the school, it eliminates the need for dress codes and it tends to instill pride in the student’s school.
Gustavo Valadez, Dean of the science and math division at Hartnell College in Salinas, CA. says that in his years of experience in teaching, he has concluded that Mexican educated students are generally very well very well prepared in mathematics compared to American educated students.
San Jose Uniﬁed School District Superintendent Dr. Linda Murray says that the District is working closely with business leaders in order to make the educational experience of this large District more relevant to modern life.
Murray says that, as an educator, she is an active member of the Silicon Valley Joint Venture group which was recently organized to prepare the Valley’s industries, businesses and their workforce for the future.
A recurring complaint of many is that too many job applicants are poorly prepared in the basic skills that are required by industry and business today.
According to a recent report by the California Higher Education Policy Center, 80 percent of the people that they polled felt higher percentage, 84 percent, while saying that they do not believe that higher education should be totally free, strongly oppose making higher education, “out of reach for someone who can benefit from it.”
There is almost unanimous agreement that the worker of the future must have more not less education.
Educational advocates say that crime would likely decline if young people believed that acquiring an education would have rewards and is accessible to them.
Kathy Chavez Napoli, a long-time community advocate, points out that, “as support for education has declined, crime has increased – there is a direct relationship.” Napoli adds that, “when children become our priority, once again, crime will decrease. Children will have options they will know that they can have a future in business, medicine or industry.
Interestingly, there is a generational gap over the importance of education in a person’s life. According to the Policy Center report, 65 percent of persons over 65 years of age say they believe that a “college education is not necessary for many people.” Of those under 65 only 31% believe that. It is during those almost 30 years of difference that the world dramatically changed.
The older generation stresses individual responsibility. That is important, but alone, it can not surmount the obstacles of inaccessibility, irrelevance and neglect associated with today’s education.
Californians in the recent campaign on the voucher referendum, made it clear that they want to do away with public education but they do fell that reform is urgently needed. When countries like Mexico, with far fewer resources than are available in the United States, are making steady progress in advancing education for their youth, the United States, must do well, in order to remain competitive, reduce crime and reverse a stagnant economy.
To become better informed on your local educational system one can attend school Board meetings. These meetings must occur at least once a month and generally are scheduled for twice a month. All Board meetings are open to the public, and public comment is both possible and desirable. © La Oferta Newspaper.