PRESTONSBURG — Education leaders from around the Big Sandy and Kentucky River valleys took part in a workshop aimed at creating economic development through better schools.
The Appalachian Innovations Collaborative summer meeting held at Big Sandy Community and Technical College focused on getting local communities to take part in Kentucky’s “Work Ready Community” program, which certifies counties and larger areas as having a workforce ready to staff economic development efforts.
Dr. Bill Daggett, founder and chairman of the International Center for Leadership in Education, said he believes the United States has the best educational system in the world, but it struggles to produce exceptional students due to its commitment to educating everyone. And in areas of high poverty like Appalachia, that problem is even worse.
“You cannot afford equity, if you don’t have economic success,” Daggett said.
Daggett told the audience of another meeting he attended, at which he shared the stage with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. At first, he said he wondered what Rice, impressive as her credentials might be, could say on the subject of education. But Rice got his attention, as well as her audience’s, from the very beginning, when she noted that 70 percent of the U.S. population is no longer eligible to enlist in the military, and that number is growing by about 1 percent a year.
Rice attributed the high number to a host of factors, with key reasons including the fact that the military no longer accepts soldiers who have not graduated high school and a high number of high school graduates who cannot pass the armed forces’ entrance test.
Daggett expanded on Rice’s remarks in noting that education has not kept pace with rapid changes in the rest of society.
“Schools today look more like 1990, than they do not look like 1990,” Daggett said.
Daggett noted that schools stop teaching reading after elementary school, leaving many graduates ill-equipped for the world that awaits them, pointing to studies showing that society’s reading demands have increased significantly over the past 12 years, while schools have remained in place.
Daggett also said that the American education system seemingly has at its core a goal of preparing students to continue their educations in college and graduate programs, rather than for the world outside of school. He said schools do a good job of teaching concepts within each discipline, but are failing to teach students how to apply their knowledge across disciplines or in the real world.
“We have this bizarre philosophy that the purpose of school is to get students ready for more school,” Daggett said. “The purpose should be to get them ready for the world after school.”