Biden delivered a message and a warning to our country in a speech that I, along with many others, wholeheartedly agree with: “Any country that out educates us will out-compete us.” He is entirely correct. However, while his words are vital and motivating, they must be accompanied by actions.
Biden delivered this speech in a city with the nation’s worst school system: Baltimore City School District. The figures aren’t simply stunning; they’ll make your heart skip a beat and your stomach turn. In the Baltimore City School District, 41% of students have a GPA of less than 1.0 on their report cards. That equates to Ds and Fs in important classes like Math, Science, and History. It gets worse, of the 171+ schools in the school district, there just so happens to be one school that came under scrutiny because there were 21 students who haven’t attended school in years. Imagine how many “ghost” students—as they call them—there are in all the other schools that haven’t yet been investigated? The total price for those “ghost” students—as far as we know—is estimated to be approximately $331,653. This news is shocking, but it gets even worse. The Baltimore City School District has one of the highest budgets of any school district in the country, with a total budget of $1.4 billion. What now remains for us to know has yet to be discovered due to the lack of transparency of the school district. So, what might be more shocking is not what we know, but what we don’t know.
People pay attention when President Biden speaks, especially teachers, who happen to be disproportionately supportive of him. That being said, given the fact that this problem has persisted for generations, the Baltimore School District’s teachers’ unions, educators, students, and parents alike must take a serious look at the future they are creating. They will serve as a case study for our country, demonstrating how we can transform the awful into the extraordinary, or fail to perform and ruin the lives of many for generations to come.
Without reform, we can be certain that we will see crime, death, and the litany of ills that will result and that are resulting all while the government remains silent. These consequences are part and parcel with a poor educational system, limited intellect, and poor home life. This is because the American Dream becomes attainable only when a child has a good education. When government and parents fail to recognize the importance of education, their children grow up with little, if any, meaningful knowledge and the ability to think critically.
No one should become a teacher just for the purpose of making money. Yes, they should be paid a living wage and should be protected from unfair regulations. That pay and protection, however, should never be at the price of the students they educate. A teacher who teaches just for the goal of earning money is an employee, not a teacher. That is a distinction that we often fail to make. We put a lot of faith in our teachers; we let them teach our children behind closed doors, we let them instill certain values in them, and we let them change their perspectives and world views. That is why we need teachers who want to educate because it is the right thing to do, and we must protect them at all costs in order for them to be able to earn a living wage.
Unfortunately, teachers’ unions, particularly those in the Baltimore school system, have lost sight of what it means to be a teacher, inevitably breeding a generation of teachers who would rather see their students fail and take to the streets if it meant they could earn just a little bit more money. As a result, students are unable to reap the rewards of a quality education that teaches them both substance and the ability to be well-functioning members of society, and they will inevitably turn to the streets and rebel against the system that failed them.
Despite the importance of specific knowledge, understanding specific subjects from specific courses is not necessarily the desirable objective of a good education. Rather, a good education should give a child the capacity to think critically, appreciate diverse points of view, and engage in rational decision-making, something which they would not be able to accomplish without a solid education. This is why Biden’s statement was as crucial as it was correct: we need to improve our children’s education if we are to succeed on the global arena.
Despite the fact that the United States is one of the world’s most powerful countries, our intelligence rankings are far from exceptional. The United States, for example, is ranked 29th in the world in terms of IQ. Our rival international superpower, China, is rated fifth. Another crucial element is how well students succeed in math and science. The United States is placed 25th in the world, behind China, which is ranked first.
The United States has the power and the resources to adjust our presence on the world stage, and be, not just the world’s foremost superpower, but the most intelligent country in the world. It is time that we stop treating education as a condition, and instead treat it as a luxury that every person, no matter their income or social status, can afford. There is no tangible item that can enhance your life as much as a good education. Once we realize this, we will be able to inspire our children and their parents to work hard in order to earn that priceless education and to be the greatest people they can be.
Armstrong Williams (@ARightSide) is the owner and manager of Howard Stirk Holdings I & II Broadcast Television Stations and the 2016 Multicultural Media Broadcast Owner of the Year. He is the author of “Reawakening Virtues.”