In a television back-to-school event to air on 22 cable networks at the same time Sept. 8, President Barack Obama joins singer Kelly Clarkson and 2009 NBA MVP LeBron James in highlighting the importance of education.
Get Schooled also tells the story of three professionals who assist these superstars.
President Obama explains to the viewers: "...education is the key to living out your dreams. So as this new school year begins, I urge you to set goals for your own education: to study hard and get involved in your school; to try new things and find something you're passionate about. Don't be afraid to ask questions and ask for help when you need it. That's how you learn. That's how you get ahead. And that's how our nation will get ahead—by ensuring that every American gets a world class education...."
Too many drop out
The news reports show the need for this presidential pep talk. With only 72 percent of American high school students graduating with their class (a lower percentage than the Czech Republic—85 percent—and Slovakia—73 percent), "far too many young people enter adulthood unprepared for college, career and life," said Allan Golston. He's with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which helped develop the program.
The statistics are worse in America's 50 largest cities. The graduation rate there is only 53 percent, with cities like Detroit and Indianapolis in the 25 to 30 percent range!
"In a global economy, the single most important issue facing our country is an educated work force," said Mayor Bill White of Houston, Texas. "Somebody who lacks a high school education will have lifetime earnings that are only 60% of those of somebody with that education. That's just the impact on personal income. There are the social costs as well" (Gary Fields, "The High School Dropout's Economic Ripple Effect," The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 21, 2008).
Estimates by America's Promise are that cutting the number of dropouts in half would produce $45 billion in new tax revenue. Other research predicts that increasing high school completion rates by just 1 percent for all men ages 20 to 60 would save $1.4 billion a year in costs associated with crime.
People who care
I was inspired to hear that Mayor White doesn't just talk about the problem. He started a program called Reach Out to Dropouts, where he and other volunteers visit the homes of students who haven't returned to school. "Reach Out has recaptured more than 5,500 dropouts since it started in 2004," reported The Wall Street Journal.
I also applaud the president and the others involved in the Get Schooled program for taking the message directly to the students on popular networks aimed at young people.
Too often the focus has been on a blame game for the problems in American schools. Teachers and parents receive much of the blame, but too little of the credit when things go right against the daunting odds. But ultimately the students themselves must take ownership of their education, both in school and throughout life.
If you are a student or a dropout, I encourage you to consider your decisions, to make the harder choices now that will produce success later. Our free magazine for young people, Vertical Thought, has great articles on education, goals, success and much more. And you can find more helpful tips in our free booklet Making Life Work.
If you are a parent, I encourage you to do all you can to inspire, coax and cajole your child to stick with it, even through the hard times. Parenting isn't easy!
As author Elizabeth Stone put it, "Making the decision to have a child—it's momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart walking around outside your body" (quoted in Teachers Are Special, p. 17, compiled by Nancy Burke, 1996).
For more personal help I encourage you to download, request, or read online our free, informative article "What Is Your Children's Future?"—and our free booklet Marriage and Family: The Missing Dimension.