Who's Going To Go To Class

November 12, 2007
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Not a week goes by without dire warnings about an outmoded and bureaucratic education system that lacks the promise and opportunity for long-term impact on the new economy.

The consequences of a misguided and failing educational system are borne out on the story on page B2 regarding the shortage of experienced researchers in bio-energy, an emerging technology field ripe with potential for economic gains and advancement — but not without a work force with the brainpower to conduct the requisite tasks.

The recent blame games and debates over high school dropout rates were fueled again recently. The harsh tenor of the “conversation” calls further attention to a K-12 system that is spinning its wheels, unattended by any significant solutions and strategies to hone basic educational needs that could and must come from Lansing. Too many students who do arrive on college campuses must be nurtured along by professors who find that they can’t properly read, write or calculate their way through first-year courses.

How many bio-energy researchers can we expect to find in that group?

“The educational system from top to bottom has failed us in this regard,” said Matt Tueth, chair of the sustainable business program at Aquinas College — the only undergraduate program of its kind. He rightly believes the shortage of experienced researchers in bio-energy is only a small part of a larger problem.

Sustainable business, with its multiple components of energy-efficient technology and environmentally friendly impacts, is being touted by this state’s governor and others as a potential savior to Michigan’s economic woes. How exactly can that strategy reach fruition without the realization that we can no longer discourage students from comprehensive studies prior to undergraduate school by compartmentalized education throughout the K-12 system?

The efforts being made to address these educational roadblocks to developing a new economy work force must be embraced and pursued with break-neck speed. It’s encouraging to know that the business community, from companies such as General Motors to energy giant BP PLC, is pouring significant funds into universities and partnerships to encourage the “intersection of biology and energy,” for example.

It’s understandable why initiatives such as the University Research Corridor in Michigan have taken shape as the alliance of the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University seeks to capitalize and leverage investments by the private sector to nurture research and innovation. It’s a concept to keep in the forefront.

As an important first step, full state funding for K-12 and university levels must be addressed. The new economy is education.

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