Expanding Our View

Typically, the education community focuses on its own universe.  Practitioners talk to practitioners.  Researchers to researchers.  Policymakers to policymakers.  Influencers to influencers.  Even flacks to flacks.  We rely on those who understand our position, have stood in our shoes, and know of what they speak.

It’s only been recently that we have seen the business community for more than just its checkbook.  In recent years, states, districts, and schools have seen the enormous role the corporate sector can play in improving instructional quality, boosting focus on results and the bottom line, and focusing our work in the classroom with the work our students may face after passing through the schoolhouse doors for the last time.

As a result, we’ve seen growing dialogue between educators and business, all in the name of the 21st century global workforce, global competitiveness, and relevant instruction.

This approach serves two core communications purposes.  The first is to get educators thinking about the end game — preparing students for the real world.  The second (and the one often overlooked) is it gets the business community thinking about and acting on the educational needs of their business, their industry sector, and their current and future employers.

Case in point, Jeffrey M. Lacker’s commentary in today’s Washington Post.  If you missed it, it was because it was in the Business section (a place where few educators dare to tread), and not in Metro or the A section.  Lacker is President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, and the piece in question was excerpted from Lacker’s presentation at the Governor’s Summit on Early Childhood Development in Virginia.  Check it out for yourself — http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/26/AR2007082601079.html.

And why is this commentary so important to the communication of education reform?  First, it clearly examines public education through a private sector lens, exploring issues like human capital, skill differentials, and the rest.  More importantly, it expands the education-business continuum.  Instead of only focusing on high schools and skill acquisition, Lacker also cites the need to attend to and invest in early childhood education.  In its simplest way, you invest in a three- or five-year-old’s education now, and it will pay exponential dividends come high school or college graduation.

Too often, we think the concerns over the global economy can be fixed with last-minute interventions in secondary school.  But anyone who has been in a classroom knows that if we don’t equip our kids with the skills and educational building blocks from go, its gets harder and harder to achieve as you move through the school system.

Lacker’s right.  A children’s education is a smart investment.  And like all smart investments, we need to properly fund it, watch it grow and mature, and reap the benefits once it has run its course.  Lacker and the Federal Reserve may be onto something here.  Is anyone listening?

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