Monday, February 23, 2009

Dear ABQ Chamber of Commerce: Pay Up or Shut Up

The economy of this state can grow only if New Mexico is a place where businesses want to locate and people want to raise their families. We know that an education system that educates every child to world-class levels regardless of socio-economic status is absolutely necessary for this to occur. And we will not be silenced.
--from "Business Earned a Say in Education", Guest Editorial, Albuquerque Journal, 2/15/09

Usually phrases like "we will not be silenced" are reserved for the truly disenfranchised and neglected in our society. I think it safe to say the "Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce" doesn't quite fit that criteria. Terri Cole, Chamber Uber-Goddess, can't pass gas without it becoming a TV sound bite or op/ed piece in the Journal.

So for the Chamber to write the above as if it is some Nelson Mandela jailed in Apartheid-era South Africa is rich. Very rich. There's much to dissect in this Op/Ed, but I want to focus a word or two on "world-class levels" above.

Here's the problem, or at least part of it. The Chamber and other users of phrases like "world-class levels" love spouting out figures about drop-out rates and such, but when asked to adequately fund things that actually will address drop-out rates balk and get all snippy.

What would actually lower drop-out rates? Dramatic expansion of things like high school apprentice programs tied directly to industry, such as those in Germany and Japan. Notice that we've spent considerable time/effort/a little bit of money tweaking a new college track based on Advanced Placement classes, lottery scholarships and such, but have done little to nothing to forge an apprentice track leading to careers that don't need college.

Why this fixation on everybody going to college? Is it based on our glorious belief in the American Dream that anybody can make it this society? No, I'd say it's based more on a desire to avoid spending the necessary dollars to provide meaningful training for a large percentage of our student body. A large percentage that invariably constitutes a huge, gigantic percentage of our dropouts.

If the Chamber wants to play the silenced victim, that will be good for some unintentional comedy, but if the Chamber really, really cared about both the drop-out rate and "world-class levels" it would quit just saying no to increased school funding and instead start offering to truly bridge the friggin' chasm between the workplace and New Mexico high schools. A chasm, by the way, that has nothing to do with standardized testing and other silly, inept attempts to make these edu-cheapskates supposedly feel better about our educational system.

And that bridge would be built, in part, with money. Money and innovation. Money the Chamber and like thinkers never want to spend, and innovation these bewailers of "world-class levels" couldn't come up with if their educational policy hair was on fire.

So, dear Chamber folks, maybe you should just shut up. Keep your pie hole closed until you can quit the simplistic complaining, and really offer something meaningful (money included) to address drop-outs, school funding and K-12 education in New Mexico.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes, the trades are VERY important. In fact, a well-trained plumber makes far more than a teacher; we'll never outsource plumbing.

Testing has driven far too much the last 20 years!

steve said...

World-class education is what we seem to be running away from--fast. Canned reading and math programs for all in middle school and the dismantling of the trade electives show we don't care about a massive group of students that are in this community. I would love to hand the Chamber some brickbats and torches and join them if they are talking about returning to sane educational opportunities and cracking the skulls containing the current testing mentality. Maybe they can join the call to action and we can ALL be heard.

Kelsey Atherton said...

oh god yes, I hated the "everyone goes to college" mentality of high school administration (Linda Sink). My freshman class was 3/2 the size of my graduating class. AHS boasts a "70% graduation rate". Which is 70% of seniors. Terribly pathetic. And yet we had tons of assemblies about how we're all going to go to college. In NM, thanks to the lottery scholarship, it's almost impossible to find someone who wanted to go to college after high school but couldn't. Heck, I had friends who moved to this state for senior year to go to college. We are damn well set on the college track kids.

Everyone else? High school does absolutely jack shit for them. Technical training would be fantastic. Programs to get them to, and in, CNM classes (which should be free, if they are dual-enrollment) would work. And if the ABQ CoC were to make a public effort to do that, it'd help the kids, help attract investors, and do a lot to rehabilitate their image. Heck, people might even agree with their business incentives if they put their money where their mouth is on private dollars being better spent than government dollars.