23 May Education – The Key to Quality of Life
“What we think determines what happens to us, so if we want to change our lives, we need to stretch our minds.” Wayne Dyer
I’m generally known as being quite direct. You don’t find me mincing words, so I won’t here. There is nothing more important to the future of our community than education. It is the single most important component. Is that stated firmly enough? The theme of our campaign has been quality of life, and not only maintaining it, but improving it as we continue to grow here in Baldwin County.
My grandfather taught me that to educate someone is to teach them to think, and a person that can think can do for himself anything that he puts his mind to. Coupled with liberty and opportunity, I completely believe this to be true. Certainly, everyone has different capacities, characteristics, and gifts, and God has created each of us uniquely. My bride is an artist to her very core. I am a math nerd. We are different in our approaches, but we both have the capacity to think and decide. Our interests and opportunities are different, but so are our successes.
The County Commission doesn’t directly influence our Board of Education, but I have worked to have a good working relationship that allows us to have honest discussions about the needs and goals of our school system coupled with the demands and expectations of the Baldwin County community. Excellence in education is my sole objective. Outcomes, interests, and performance ranges vary, but we must provide the curriculum, classes, and environment for our students to develop and pursue their curiosities and passions in education that will enable them to achieve personal success through opportunities making them positive contributors to our community. This benefits every citizen in the county whether you even have children here or not.
Think about this with me. Better education in our community affects every component of our quality of life. Here are several facts to consider. If education suffers, our courts and our jails will have a higher percentage of activity per capita. This results in a higher cost and lower efficiency in the use of your tax dollars at the county level. It will cause more work for the non-profits I have written about across our county to serve those in need because the needs will be greater and volunteers fewer. If education does not perform, our healthcare quality will decline. The best doctors will be less inclined to move here, because their children will not be properly educated. Hospital nurses and employees will not function at as high of a level. Without quality education, businesses cannot perform the same. In some sectors, it is challenging to find employees that can pass a drug test and show up for work everyday. A lower quality of education will make hiring even more difficult and more expensive which will be a negative drag on our entire local economy. How about your neighbors? Poor education will result in lower quality neighborhoods, and lower property values over a relatively short period of time. It is critically important that we support our school system, and require excellence in education to continue and improve our Baldwin County Quality of Life.
As I said earlier, not everyone has the same ability, drive, interests, or goals, but as a society, we still think a four-year degree is the way to go. I would like for us to change our messaging on that a little, especially with the incredible opportunities ahead here in advanced manufacturing. We, Coastal Alabama, send thousands of high school graduates to universities and colleges everywhere. Upon graduation in four or five years, those thousands will be competing for entry-level jobs making around $35-40k, plus or minus. Seventy percent of all college students have student loans averaging between $28-37,000 depending on the study. I would argue that debt number to be quite a bit higher for most individuals. However, a student that attends Coastal Alabama Community College or starts an apprenticeship with a company like Austal, will be working in a job in 2 years or less starting at close to $50,000 in fields with high demands for quality employees. The financial head start and opportunity for advancement is worth serious consideration as we advise our children toward their futures.
Either path requires a solid base that is established by parents, educators, and the community. We need to support our education system that teaches reading, history, language, arts, math, and science, (learning to think) but as importantly we need to encourage and develop character traits and soft skills that provide for a successful life (learning to live). I will continue to ask hard questions, and push for excellence in education, but I solidly support and am thankful for our Board of Education, principals, teachers, tutors, coaches, and staff that are providing a quality education here. It is the key to our quality of life in Baldwin County.