“Knowledge is power.” While many people often quote this long held belief, they rarely stop to think just how tremendous the idea really is. Through knowledge and education, we bestow upon ourselves the capacity to shape the world and our surroundings. Education socializes us, it teaches us morality, and it inculcates a practical, problem-solving approach to life’s dilemmas.
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As we know, the United States is slipping in its standing as a world leader in technology, education, and health. Recently, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has ranked the US as 29th out of a 57-country pool for reading, math, and science literacy for 15-year-olds. The United States falls behind countries like Croatia, the Czech Republic, Lichtenstein, and Finland, which OECD ranked as number one.
While the US still reigns supreme in other categories like defense and security, professionals and educators alike feel there may be grave consequences if we lose the race of education. And financial costs are among the most feared. According to Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, “To most policymakers there's almost a believed connection between how well our kids do in school and how well our economy does in the global economy.”
However, it’s important to note the statistical problems that occur when comparing the US, a country of 300 million, to a country like Finland, which only has 6 million (that’s smaller than the population of Los Angeles alone). Regardless, the fact remains that a quarter of students in high school dropout, a statistic that U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan deems “absolutely unacceptable”.
Where “Green” Comes In
From the point of view of this writer, we seem to have a few major issues that challenge the fundamental stability of this nation. Our energy market, while powerful no doubt, has recently gone “over the hill”, meaning that the peak in energy supply is over, and from now on, there will be less supply for our growing demand. Oil is dying.
Equally so, we have nearly 10 percent of our population unemployed and another 22.5 percent underemployed. This compounds our already burgeoning problem of welfare and cash assistance, meaning more debt for our already beleaguered federal government.
Finally, we have hardly educated and poorly educated students coming out of our school systems, with hardly any prospects for a good job in a competitive labor market.
What are we to do?
It is time for a rapid investment in clean energy and green education. In other words, it’s time the United States reinvented itself. Now is the time for change. Now is the time we must take the reins and steer in the right direction. Consider this:
The oil industry will, at first glance of such a plan, fight tooth and nail to kill “green” energy. Oil makes trillions of dollars – that’s trillions. So, without a doubt, there will be stiff opposition to industry change. However, big oil knows – just as well as government scientists – that oil is a finite resource. Even if there is more to be found, eventually that will run out too, and current projections see 2050 as the final year of oil. So, rather than running oil dry, a plan that could very possibly lead to global war, let’s save what we have and distance ourselves from the rest.
As we force ourselves away from oil, the government will lead in a rapid investment in clean energy, co-sponsored by the CEO’s of Chevron, Exxon-Mobil, and Shell, who will all be leaders in this new market. Furthermore, the government – both state and federal – will pump money into reeducating the un/underemployed and reforming our K-12 schools, which will now have an emphasis on math, science, and technology. Here, the plan comes full circle.
Better Late than Never
While the government is working hard with American companies on securing both their futures, in the classroom, teachers will be working hard on educating a new generation of students. Through special emphasis programs at public schools, environmental charter schools, and green vocational programs, students (both young and old) will learn the skills for the industry, develop the genius behind the next generation of technology, and deliver the competent, specialized workforce both needed and available.
All three of our major problems share a similar solution. The sooner lawmakers and professional businesspeople see this, the sooner we can bite our lip and move on with it. There will be deficit. There will be problems with industry change. Without a doubt, a whole new breed of issues will spawn from this new breed of solutions.
Then again, we will have fixed our current problems of energy, unemployment, and education, as well as secured our future. Through redefining education standards and goals, as well as implementing green community development, the US can become the world’s leader in education, energy conservancy, and clean energy development and technology. In other words, the United States can take the same position it had in the 1950s – the premier destination for investment, new business, great intellectuals, and the “American Dream”.
Richard Freedman, an economics professor at Harvard, put it this way, “We've been asleep for a good number of years as a country. It's not that we're doing horrible. But the other guys are moving faster.”
Well, it’s time we picked up pace. If we can take the blow of change, we can emerge on top. That decision lays with the people, their representatives, and big business. Hopefully, we make the right choice. And if we do, we will change the United States of America for the better, and secure our future for decades upon decades to come.