Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's all about the Education ...

As I am cleaning off my desk, working through emails, reading articles that I haven't had time to look over and basically winding down before a few days off, I keep running into a common theme: if we in rural America are to be able to compete on a global level, we must become lifelong learners. This isn't a great epiphany and it doesn't immediately create jobs or put money in our coffers but I believe it is one of the few absolute truths that will stand the test of time for our generation.

During the times of rapid economic expansion that occurred after WWII and for many decades that followed, it was possible to leave school, take a job, have a family, buy a house, have children, buy a car,then retire 35 years later, with a pension provided by your company. You could probably do this without ever reading anything more than the daily news. It was almost an unwritten contract that if you were loyal to your employer, then they would take care of you. My, how times have changed.

Less and less companies offer a pension, even if you stay with them your entire career (that is if they stay in business). Most of us are going to face not only multiple job changes but multiple career changes. The only way to survive in this environment is to be adaptable and be willing an able to learn.

That takes me to the real meat of this post: we have 30+% of our population in Stokes County that have less than a High School diploma. We have less than 50% of the state average number of residents with a college degree. We have a significant portion of students leaving school each year without a diploma and this number is not shrinking. It scares me to think about what life will hold for many of these young people. Most will be faced with a life of low wage jobs and little chance of advancement.

OK, so that is enough of a downer for one post. There is light on the horizon. I am attaching a link to Tech Quarterly, a magazine produced by Forsyth Technical Community College. Please go to pages 23-4 and read the article on Paul Kindley, Adult Literacy Coordinator for Stokes County. I have had the pleasure of working with Paul occasionally during the past several months and he is as dedicated a person as I know. With people of this caliber, who are pushing to improve the educational attainment of our citizens, there is hope. If you see Paul or his brethren in the educational field this holiday season, stop to say hello and thank them for the jobs they are doing.

I think they are our best hope for the future!

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