Legislators flunk; ArtPrize advances education

September 23, 2016
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After all the popular votes were counted and ArtPrize Two closed in game-changing style, the education community wanted opportunities to invest, partake and learn from all that was available in the wondrous mix. ArtPrize Eight elevates the opportunities provided with the kid- (and parent-) popular STEAM Village and its sponsors. In fact, it is more than anyone might have dreamed it to be for the partnership of West Michigan’s newest powerhouse Switch.

It is in sharp contrast to the education provisions of state legislators who have forsaken education in Michigan for political philosophies ill-disguised as education initiatives. The “debate” that began in March, for instance, whether third-graders, who cannot read at least at second-grade levels, should be held back to repeat third grade. The measure finally found compromise between House and Senate versions as the week closed, but the number of possible exceptions and exemptions surely are enough to continue to pass children.

One of the exceptions is if a superintendent or designee believes it is in the child’s “best interest” to move on to fourth grade. Please tell, how could it ever be misconstrued to be in a child’s best interest to cheat them of reading abilities and force upon them the looming tortures of further failure? Reading is fundamental to understanding any other subject. Reading is fundamental to everyday life. In fact, only 46 percent of all Michigan’s 105,000 third-graders were able to reach the level of “proficient” in the state’s M-STEP assessment this spring.

The third-grade reading legislation is but one of a long line of continuing examples of legislative lameness in addition to education funding inadequacies. Many of the approving legislators are expected to take part in the West Michigan Policy Forum this week at the Amway hotel properties, in the heart of the popular ArtPrize competition. A visit to STEAM Village should be mandatory.

The “art of science” village is not some “futuristic” fantasy exhibit but a very real demonstration of what education looks like — in this day and for this age. Scientist and National Geographic Explorer Albert Yu-Min Lin was in Grand Rapids to speak to students as the “classroom” opened, telling the Business Journal, “The structure of our most recent education is really defined by the Industrial Revolution, and there was a different set of goals. Our connectivity, our data and knowledge accessibility, it requires every individual to start thinking as an innovator.” The Business Journal reports he told the children they are part of the most important generation in thousands of years, and the next 50 years will define the next 10,000 years because of the various scientific tipping points the world has reached.

Apparently, it is not a concept Michigan legislators understand, one could think perhaps because of their own educational inadequacies. Once again, it leaves employers holding the bag and funding to provide rudimentary educations for future employees, as is currently the case for many types of businesses.

The legislators have flunked, and they’re taking children and future employees down with them.

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