The America Within Our Reach

If America’s government functions as well as its military, imagine what our nation could accomplish.

Source: - Rep. Gabby Gifford embraces Pres. Obama

After listing significant military accomplishments over the past year, President Obama posed a challenge to the U.S. Congress to mirror the effectiveness of the military in its legislative action. That outcome would be amazing for our nation and our national competitiveness.

Investing in Innovation
Our President’s address tonight highlighted the technologies and innovations that have led to America’s global progress. He also highlighted that government funded basic research was invested to achieve many innovations that we often take for granted. Investing in innovation always takes time. Not every research investment pans out to be meaningful. However, the government (in particular, the military) has supported more investments in basic research that have led to innovations that we still benefit from today.

The transistors that led to the microchip is an innovation that stands out.  It is kind of hard to launch a rocket with vacuum tubes for computing guidance. Yet, when it comes to the jobs that are being created in STEM-related disciplines, the jobs are available; we simply do not have enough ready citizens to take them.

Higher Education Is Not Luxury
In addressing the jobs gap, President Obama highlighted the critical importance of having a well-educated and competitive citizenry. Starting with making higher education more affordable through technology and alternative delivery models to expedite graduation while maintaining rigor and keeping costs down.  This is possible today. Colleges and universities need to leverage the blend of institutional services and cloud services to achieve a student-centered advantage.

While the cost of higher education is enough to give anyone pause, President Obama suggested that States should compel its citizens to remain in high school until they graduate or turn age 18.  This suggestion reminded me of remarks made on the student panel at NBC’s Education Nation. NBC’s Ann Curry interviewed a panel of young adults. Panelist Stephanie Torres stood out.

Stephanie Torres shared her life’s story without a high school education. Stephanie dropped out of high school at age 17. She explained how difficult it was to find a job without a high school diploma. Moreover, Stephanie talked of how difficult it was to get a better job without her graduation equivalent diploma. However, getting a GED costs money. It is a vicious trap.

Here is the kicker. After experiencing the challenges she has had since dropping out of school, Stephanie concludes that no child should be giving the option to dropout of school.  Well, I imagine that Stephanie would be the first supporter of President Obama’s proposal for compulsory education.

Video:  Voices of a Generation: Students Speak Out

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Students need to graduate from high school ready for higher learning and life—not just graduate to meet a metric or policy mandate.Otherwise, we will risk the watering down of education to increase graduation rates and still not achieve a more competitive America.

Today, our military only wants high school graduates.  Perhaps if our society only provided jobs and benefits to high school graduates, the citizens would set an expectation for our youth that education is important and dropping out is not an option for success.

The question for you: is increasing high school graduation rates our collective job as citizens or is it the government’s role to do it?