The United States educational system is broken — but not beyond repair.
Although many reputable sources and institutions rate our education system as one of the top performers, there are many who would say otherwise. I'm inclined to agree with the latter. With the technological advancement of the last few decades, labor opportunities have generally become less time-consuming but require increasingly advanced training and skills.
We must realize this change and rethink the ways in which we instruct the generations to come. Higher rates of education correlate to lesser rates of crime, higher future earnings and an overall more civilized society. Instead of requiring our workforce to fill this extra time with additional labor, we must instead invest in our workers and fill this time with continued learning.
We could institute inexpensive, flexible programs which adults could enroll in whichever topic they'd prefer. Anyone can enroll in any number of courses, which could remain flexible and work around their schedule. Companies could even partner with these institutions and help curate programs to teach highly sought-after industry knowledge and skills
If we could implement a system like this, it would go a long way to fixing some of the inequities and problems with our current institutions. But bolstering our current system needs to happen first.
I'll admit, I wasn't always the most eager and avid student. I would become distracted easily and feel indifferent towards the units and lessons required by my school and state. And although at times I still experience some of these problems, I now have the maturity to understand the value of this investment and appreciate the opportunities afforded to me.
Unfortunately, these opportunities aren't available to everyone. I was simply lucky enough to grow up with inherent privileges, which allowed me to progress despite various mistakes. In 2021, 91.1% of Americans 25 and older had received a high school diploma, but only 37.9% had gone further into university or other higher educational institutions, according to Statista.
This is utterly confusing. Why is our country so backwards about education? We pursue economic and technological growth, but make it costly to invest in bettering ourselves through higher education. Now, enrollment is limited to students who come from wealthy families, effectively growing the wealth of the wealthiest.
Meanwhile, income inequality grows, and the disparity between the most educated and those who cannot afford it widens. This is simply embarrassing.
The United States is a global superpower, surpassing most other countries in economic output, technological prowess and innovation — we do not settle for alright, or at least we didn't use to. We were a model, an ideal to strive for — now we're the butt-end of a joke.
Our education system is already deteriorating, and we need to take this time to build these institutions back up. But, before we add any additional programs or opportunities, we need to fix the current system we have.
We need better quality schools, inexpensive enrollment, and we must start paying teachers enough to live in dignity. The fact that teachers often have to dip into their own pockets to cover the cost of various school supplies for them and their students is again utterly embarrassing.
If we invest not only in our current education system, but further this into adulthood, we would see levels of growth and innovation skyrocket for decades to come. History teaches us that, with higher education, comes higher growth and earnings. I just wonder when our decision-makers will learn this lesson.
Sean Gilley (he/him) is a senior studying political science and economics with a certificate in informatics.