Talking Point #10: We need to educate our children for a global economy

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The next time you hear a politician, candidate, or other such person say the above, make sure you ask them about Larry Page.

Larry Page is an alum of East Lansing High School in lovely East Lansing, a few miles from the state Capitol where said politicians say such things. East Lansing is pretty famous for being home to Michigan State University.

Larry Page is pretty famous for founding Google.

On Tuesday, students assigned to math classes at Page’s old stomping grounds were told school was out for another month – at least for them. That’s how long they’d be without a regular math teacher.

I should point out that East Lansing schools are consistently among the top in the state. So why in the eff aren’t there math teachers?

Travel back down the road to the state Capitol for answers.

Last year the state Legislature approved a devastating $165 per pupil cut in the K-12 budget. They were kind enough to do it in October (snark) even though EVERY YEAR they pontificate about how the People Across The Aisle should get off their seats and pass an education budget in line with schools’ fiscal years, which begin July 1.

Now, the same school that produced Page and math whiz Nate Silver (he of the wildly successful fivethirtyeight.com) can’t put a teacher in all their classrooms to challenge the next generation of geniuses.

The state Senate had a chance to restore funding for schools, but instead raided the school fund and reduced the cut to a slightly-less-apocalyptic $154. Another band-aid fix for a structural budget deficit that needs a tourniquet, another band-aid fix that cheats our children of a better future.

The irony should be obvious, but in case it isn’t: in math, you’re taught to show your work. You’re taught to do that because you have to prove your solution works, and you can’t do that if you’re cutting corners. Cutting corners, taking the easy way out, going for the short-term fix – these approaches are all anathema in education, yet they’re the modus operandi for the folks signing the checks for schools.

What’s that approach buy us?

Right now, students aren’t learning math in one of the top school districts in the state. Right now, some schools can’t even afford to buy chalk. Right now, the state Legislature is failing our future.

It’s a real bang for the buck.

But they’re not failing satellite dish providers, oil well owners, vending machine companies and tobacco corporations, all of whom enjoy millions in tax breaks. Millions of the $35.8 billion doled out each year.

So sure, maybe we’ll get a nice announcement about how book-keeping tricks and band-aids are getting us through another year without closing tax loopholes or reforming the budget, but at what cost?

At the cost of how many future Nate Silvers and Larry Pages, who won’t be challenged and won’t learn because, for the love of Google, there isn’t even a math teacher to do it?

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