Charity begins with generosity

A couple of weeks ago CNN ran a feature on education in America. One of the main premises was that corporations only ship jobs overseas because Americans aren’t educated enough.Even Bill Maher has criticized American students for preferring liberal arts degrees over degrees in science and engineering. The question he never asked is why students would choose an art degree over a degree in a lucrative field like engineering. The pressure on American students is not to rise to a challenge but to improve their GPA.Students aren’t dumb. They will find the best strategies for achieving the grades that will keep their parents and scholarship boards happy. This includes negotiating with teachers, wearing them down, and selecting the classes most likely to earn them the highest grades.I find it ironic that we pressure students to come home with the highest grades possible, and then complain about grade inflation.Of course, we also complain about paying the taxes the education system needs. The same corporate tycoons who claim they must go overseas because students aren’t educated are the first to undercut American education by dodging their tax responsibilities.Who do they think pays for the education systems for the high tech work forces in India and China? The people who pay taxes. Sure, wealthy families will always find good educations for their kids, but, as with the families of privilege in America, families of privilege anywhere want their kids to go into management and influence peddling.Should these same corporations move overseas, they would be the first to demand cuts to taxes to fund the education systems there.Rather than acknowledging their responsibility for the problem, they lay out every red herring possible to distract us from their ploy. They blame teachers unions, and the lack of quality coursework, and the grade inflation caused by demands that students have good resumes with good GPAs rather than sound educations.Are teachers unions the reason teachers are so bad? Partly, but why do they protect incompetent teachers? Because the pay we offer is so crappy the schools can’t attract the top performers. Of course, the unions protect mediocre teachers. They understand that if we let the mediocre teachers go, the odds are they will have to pick up the slack themselves, and they are already facing a workload with more class hours and more students.The demand for standardized tests to “prove” students learned what they needed handcuffs the best and most innovative teachers. Why do we need those tests? To prove the few tax dollars we begrudge education are doing their job. It’s kind of like telling auto manufacturers to make cars for half the price with half the resources, and then demanding each car pass more rigorous inspections than before to prove they’re still reliable and safe.The real joke is the lack of high level classes, such as engineering and advanced calculus, especially in high schools. Here’s the reality of offering high level classes. You need to hire teachers qualified to teach them. But those guys are working for six times as much in the private sector. The few teachers who might be qualified are overburdened with five other more mundane classes with thirty-five students. This hardly leaves them time to prepare.The same thing has happened in our universities and community colleges. Administrations, looking to maximize every educational dollar in terms of numbers, no longer hire as many full-time professors with a reduced class load that gives them time to research and prepare. They hire adjunct professors who have to carry six classes at several different schools to earn anything close to a decent living.In addition, you have to offer smaller classes because you can’t teach advanced calculus to a class of thirty-five students. Even if you could attract them, which you probably couldn’t. Usually the advanced classes attract twelve to fifteen students, and high schools can’t justify classes that small on their budgets. So they either don’t offer the classes, or pack them with students who don’t want to take them, and that creates an unmanageable situation for teachers.Even community colleges and universities have stopped teaching the smaller classes, because they don’t justify the teachers’ salaries. Even if students have an interest in and talent for these specialized fields, they may have to stick around another year or two just to find the class on the schedule and hope it doesn’t compete with another class required for graduation.Corporations love to create endowments, but endowments come with strings attached. Sadly, so do the few tax dollars that trickle down to the schools. If corporate America really wanted a highly motivated and educated class of students they would support more education, demand higher salaries from teachers, give their own top-level employees teaching sabbaticals, and make sure that the advanced classes we need are taught. Best of all, they would kick in the tax dollars to make sure important classes are limited to ten or twelve students so that teachers can give students the time and attention they need.In the meantime, the Christian right wants to decimate education, because it doesn’t teach children to be Christian enough. Home schooling and school voucher programs diminish schools further, and create an entire class of children who see no value in the education corporations need to keep jobs at home.Jesus made it clear that when we share gladly God gives back abundantly. Not necessarily in direct payment with interest. If we meet other’s financial needs when we’re financially well off, he will meet other needs—usually through other Christians. If we aren’t financially well off, we still share and others will return with what we need.The riches in God’s kingdoms are trickle up. God blesses us as we bless others, and we don’t have to restrict those blessings to those who share our beliefs. In fact, the parable of the Good Samaritan stresses that we shower our own blessings on those who don’t believe as we do.Corporate leaders may think they’re protecting the bottom line by refusing to pay taxes to support education (not to mention defense and infrastructure), but they’re only hurting themselves. Christians should remember this as well. God commands us to give more, not less, and to give with a glad heart as well.

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