Integrity Matters
November 26, 2003

Future depends on education of young people

Question: (E-079)

Dear Jim:

High school exit exams are now being changed again to be made easier. As the global economy heats up and competition increases, how can we expect the next generation of young Californians to be competitive - let alone succeed - if our educational system does not insist on academic excellence? Where is educators' integrity if they are bowing to pressure from lazy students and irresponsible parents who say standards are too high?


Educational testing is a sophisticated discipline that combines what is being learned with how it is communicated by the student in a formal testing situation. Recent reports overseen by the independent National Assessment Governing Board and the U.S. Department of Education indicate California students are improving on certain national tests.

Even though California's performance is not yet stellar, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell said he continues to "believe our state standard tests are a more accurate reflection of our children's progress in the classroom."

O'Connell mentions that California has unique challenges, including the largest percentage of non-native English-speakers in any state. Even so, the world economy will not slow down or change its demands to accommodate the educational challenges faced by Californians.

Competitive advantage is almost always on the side of those who are prepared intellectually and practically to increase productivity.
When those in authority do not direct younger people to both understand and commit to the essential sacrifices necessary to remain competitive, then they have lost the moral authority to lead.

The future is in jeopardy for those who are not prepared. Language and math knowledge combined with social and communications skills, are the foundations for effectiveness in the technology-driven world of the 21st Century.

Our educators and parents carry an important burden: the responsibility to motivate and sustain serious interest in lifelong learning, which begins formally in those earliest classroom encounters.

Strong family and community support systems must encourage learning. Regardless of history, culture or economic position, all who are responsibly guiding the next generation become (by choice or chance) the pillars upon which it builds strong and productive citizenship.

The rest of the world does not much concern itself with our social and cultural assimilation challenges. If we are casual in our approach to preparation for the future, even the present, we will be left behind: economically, culturally and politically. If we do not regulate and in this instance, demand, the best of what we are capable, then the world as we have known it will change and leave us behind.

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