I think I had mentioned before I am taking a year-long class called “Leadership Pittsburgh”. For 25 years, the program has helped to expose the next generation of leaders to the problems confronting western Pennsylvania. My class of 57 business professionals meets once a month to gain a better understanding of the issues around our state.
Thursday, we met at Point Park University to discuss perhaps the most critical issue of our time. The issue facing our region and our country which, if not solved, could turn this nation into a second-rate power. It’s a ticking time bomb set to go off in the coming years .. and I have not heard the word uttered by a single candidate in the Presidential race.
Our class heard from the superintendent of the Pittsburgh Public Schools, visited a local charter school and received some sobering statistics from the director of Pitt’s Education Improvement Initiative. The bottom line? No matter how well your school district maybe doing, our region as a whole – and our nation as well – is falling behind.
As a country, we are being surpassed in academic standards and achievements by China, Japan and India. Consider this: 2.5 million students in China are studying English. 25,000 American students are learning Chinese. Who do you think is getting ready for the future? Locally, school funding in the state of Pennsylvania is among the lowest in the country. While we do have school districts that are thriving, we have way too many students who aren’t making the cut at their own grade level – and it’s even worse for minorities.
I came away from my day of education about education feeling frustrated, scared and overwhelmed. But I also came away believing that education may be the single most important issue facing our nation. Why? Because it involves the future of our country and it’s one area where you can clearly see we’re in trouble .. and we knew this was coming. As a 1983 report entitled “A Nation at Risk” stated, there is no threat from foreign lands that’s more dangerous than the failure of our public schools to prepare our students for a future that demands they have the skills to deal with the ever-changing global landscape.
We can protect our most valuable resource — our children — but we need to make that a priority and we need to do it right now.
Have a great weekend.