Thursday, March 22, 2012

Education budget cuts alarm columnist

By Paula McFadden, Opinion Columnist

Education is in a sad state in the United States.

Currently, Washington state lawmakers are arguing over budget plans in a special session.

One plan was to cut an additional $43 million from public schools and $30 million from higher education.

Lawmakers have moved away from this plan, but the thought they considered more budget cuts to education is alarming.

Even at Pacific Lutheran University, students are faced with another increase to tuition for the coming academic year.

A survey, released on March 7 by Met Life Survey of the American Teacher, reported the morale of teachers, students and parents is at an all-time low. Lack of job security, budget cuts, teaching to standardized tests and increased class sizes are the common reasons for the decrease in morale.

These budget cuts come as a result of the economic crisis, but cutting education should be the last resort. Without a strong education system, the United States lets too many young people slip through the cracks of society.

For example, Timothy, an inmate in California, wrote a letter to an archeology magazine to disagree with an article involving hieroglyphics.

He gained the attention of the Los Angeles Times because he was a high school dropout whose birth parents were not around. Timothy was imprisoned for stabbing another person during a fight. Now, he is using his 19-year sentence to educate himself on Egyptology and memorize hieroglyphs with cut-up milk cartons as flash cards.

Timothy is an example of how our education system is doing a disservice to this nation’s youth.

There might have been other factors that led to his imprisonment, but his actions within the prison walls show his interest to learn. The issue for Timothy and for many other kids in the education system is simply not caring or not feeling cared for.

Where the education system fails, parents are the ones who need to step in and hold schools accountable. What happens to our society when educational programs continue to be cut and parents refuse to see the capability of their own children?

A few weeks ago, I was working at Barnes and Noble when a mother and her 13-year-old son came up to purchase three books. They were arguing as they walked up to the counter. The mother was adamant the books were too difficult for her son to read.

I politely defended the boy and said anything was possible with a good dictionary, but the mother said he would not even know what a dictionary is.

The mother became so focused on the word “can’t,” and the boy became visibly depressed that his mother did not think he could read the books. Although I could not change the mother’s mind, the boy at least heard me defend him.

Society has the power to help by encouraging kids and voting for school levies to give more money back to schools. Education is the backbone of our society. Without it, we have nothing to stand on.

Paula McFadden is a junior at Pacific Lutheran University pursuing a degree in English with an emphasis in writing and minors in communication and publishing and printing arts. She lives on-campus but calls Lakewood, Wash., home.