Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Better educated citizenry builds prosperity and hope

Tribune242 Editorial Bahamas:

PRESIDENT Barack Obama, like College of the Bahamas president Janyne Hodder, stresses the need for a better educated work force to keep a country competitive.

Mrs Hodder, in an address to a women's luncheon earlier this year, underscored the threat to the Bahamas' economic future with fewer than "15 per cent of our young people enrolled in higher education when every prosperous nation around us is moving to increase higher education participation rates, as high as 50 per cent in some countries."

Paying a surprise visit to a school in Kalamazoo, Michigan Monday, President Obama told students that a better-educated workforce will help the U.S. stay competitive globally. Don't mimic Washington by making excuses, the Associated Press reported President Barack Obama as saying as he advised graduating high school students and encouraged them to take responsibility for failure as well as success.

In remarks delivered Monday evening at Kalamazoo Central High School, the President said it's easy to blame others when problems arise. "We see it every day out in Washington, with folks calling each other names and making all sorts of accusations on TV," the president said.

He said Kalamazoo high school students can and have done better than that.

The 1,700-student school in southwest Michigan landed President Obama as its commencement speaker after winning the national Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge. It was among three finalists picked through public voting on the schools' videos and essays. The White House made the final selection.

The administration cited Kalamazoo Central's 80 per cent-plus graduation rate, improvements in academic performance and a culturally rich curriculum. Would that one day the Bahamas could boast such an achievement for its government schools.

About an hour before the Kalamazoo ceremony, President Obama surprised the 280 graduates by dropping in on them in the recreation centre at Western Michigan University as they prepared for the big moment.

Walking around with a hand-held microphone, he told the students to work hard, keep their eyes on the prize and continue to carry with them a sense of excellence.

"There is nothing you can't accomplish," he said, suggesting they might consider public service. "I might be warming up the seat for you." Students rushed from the bleachers to shake the President's hand and take cell phone pictures after he spoke.

President Obama, who says a better-educated workforce will help the U.S. stay competitive globally, said in his prepared remarks that the school had set an example with its level of community and parental involvement and the high standards of its teachers.

"I think that America has a lot to learn from Kalamazoo Central about what makes for a successful school in this new century," he said. "This is the key to our future."

He advised the graduates to work hard and take responsibility for their successes and their failures.

"You could have made excuses -- our kids have fewer advantages, our schools have fewer resources, so how can we compete? You could have spent years pointing fingers -- blaming parents, blaming teachers, blaming the principal or the superintendent or the government," the president said.

"But instead, you came together. You were honest with yourselves about where you were falling short. And you resolved to do better."

Education is widely seen as one hope for Michigan's long-struggling economy. The state has had the nation's highest unemployment rate for four consecutive years, including a 14 per cent jobless rate in April. Thousands of manufacturing jobs have been lost, many connected to the auto industry, and the state is trying to diversify its economy with alternative energy, biomedical and other jobs -- most of which require education beyond high school.

The White House said more than 170,000 people voted in the contest.

Kalamazoo Central's valedictorian, Cindy Lee, said she was excited but jittery about sharing the stage with the president.

"The whole school is excited about it. The whole community is excited. It's on the news every single day," Lee, 18, said last week.

As for COB President Hodder "a high school diploma is no longer the end point. There is more learning to be done if we are to have an informed, critical citizenry and to have better control over the prosperity of the nation. An expanded elite of well educated people build prosperity and where such status is open to all who work hard and want to, it also builds hope."

June 08, 2010

tribune242 editorial