At the very moment when the demands of basic citizenship and making a living require more critical faculties than ever before, states such as Oregon, California and many others are disinvesting in secondary and higher education. That is the most curious, demoralizing and destructive contradiction in America.
In the best of times, it is difficult to advise young people on which way to turn. In these times, it is especially challenging, because so many jobs that once were considered bedrock, stable meal tickets are vanishing from our shores.
David Wessel of The Wall Street Journal has defined the difference between the jobs that will stay and those that will go away. In an April 2 article Wessel wrote: "Jobs that can be reduced to a series of rules are likely to go - either to workers abroad or to computers. The jobs that stay in the U.S. or that are newly created in the decade ahead are likely to demand the more complex skill of recognizing patterns or require human contact."
In a prior issue of the WSJ, John Harwood reported these startling numbers. "In 2002 ... 60,000 engineers graduated from U.S. colleges. China and India, the Asian giants that together hold one-third of the world's population, graduated five times that many."
Education has been America's calling card since the 19th century. On a wall in our home, Even as we starve the schools, we are redefining the nature of learning in positive ways.we have my maternal grandfather's 1896 diploma from the Cascade Locks school system. It is a huge piece of paper, and it appears to have been signed by everyone in the school system. It also sports a broad blue ribbon. The girth of this public schools certificate tells us that those people at that time esteemed education.
Learning and churches were often linked in the 19th century and early 20th century. My paternal grandmother was known for establishing two institutions in Alaska, Washington and Oregon communities: Sunday school and libraries.
My maternal grandmother began her teaching career as a 19-year-old in Iowa, "a one-room country school at least a mile from any dwelling." She subsequently taught (1905-1908) in a one-room school in Clifton, which is upriver from Astoria. In her personal memoir she wrote: "It was expected that the teacher also be the superintendent of the Sunday school. This I did, also played the organ, led the singing, and taught a Sunday school class. On Saturdays, I gave piano lessons to the daughter of a woman who did my laundry in payment."
She spent her own money to have a graduation program printed for the ceremony honoring the graduates of Clifton's school. It was a personal gesture that marked a rite of passage which those people deemed the essence of citizenship.
Even as we starve our schools, we are redefining the nature of learning in a positive way. Two trends strike me as healthy. One is a recognition that people have different learning styles. Not everyone learns best in the traditional academic style. The second trend is the creation of schools that will address the educational needs of students for whom the conventional high school doesn't work. In Astoria, we have the Astoria School District and the Tongue Point Job Corps Center collaborating on a charter school. Columbia Academy is designed for self-driven students who are floundering in the traditional school. Its curriculum mixes vocational with academic.
If you want to change the world, help a young person get an education. Ken Ford virtually invented that axiom. As owner of Roseburg Lumber Co., the late Mr. Ford endowed a foundation that gives away more than $7 million in scholarships annually. More than 800 students are receiving support this year.
The Ford scholarship money is distributed through four programs to students in entire state of Oregon and Siskiyou County, Calif. The Ford Scholars Program targets high school graduates and continuing community college students. The Ford Opportunity Program is specific to single parents who are heads of household. The Ford ReStart Program supports nontraditional students, 25 years or older. The fourth scholarship program serves sons and daughters of employees of Roseburg Forest Products Co.
The Astoria High School scholarship fund is another example of donors communicating the value of education to the next generation. One of the oldest of those scholarships is the Ed and Eda Ross Scholarship Fund.