How do we educate our youth?

Article originally published in the Bureau County Republican, May 19, 2009

MENDOTA – Take any four Illinois high school freshmen, simmer for four years, and what do you get?

Well, according to recent statistics, you’ll get one high school drop-out, one gradu­ate ready to face whatever life throws him, and two who will graduate high school and yet be woefully ill-prepared for the chal­lenges of college or career.

That was only one of the sobering statistics revealed at Monday’s Town Hall meet­ing, held at the Mendota Civic Center and sponsored by the North Central Regional Betterment Coalition and Advance Illinois.

About 165 Bureau, LaSalle and Putnam county teachers and administrators, school board members and area business people attended the meeting, which was entitled “Transition to World Class Education.”

The NCRCB was creat­ed after a study in 2003 showed the North Central Illinois Region was going to be limited in its advance­ment due to an abundance of low skilled low wage jobs, a lack of people who seek higher education and a sig­nificant drug problem.

Monday’s meeting was one of many across the state, and designed to look for local solutions to the problems Illinois schools, and students, face.

One of the speakers was Steven Wrobleski, the cur­riculum director at LaSalle­Peru High School.

Wrobleski said one of the problems with schools is that they are training young people for jobs that no longer exist.

Also speaking with Joe Buchanan, the valedic­torian of Mendota High School’s Class of 2009. Buchanan said there is a growing emphasis on tech­nology in schools, and called it a “good and important” direction.

He said a technology-based eduction is essen­tial for the future, but warned that education must move with the growth of technology.

Another of Buchanan’s concerns was about the focus on the current grade-driven system. He said good grades have become more important than the actual knowledge being taught.

“The goal should not be to get the highest grade,” he said. “The goal should be to learn things that you will need to know in your future.”

Like Wrobleski, Buchanan was concerned schools preparing students for no-longer existent jobs, and said that many future jobs have not even been thought of yet.

“If I choose a career now, how will I know the job will still exist when I’m done?” he said.

Despite the current problems with education, Buchanan said that education is the foundation of the future, and that it’s essential to reinforce and improve the educational system.

“Today’s system won’t meet the needs of tomor­row,” he said.

This is the first in a three-part series. In Thursday’s BCR, read more about the challenges facing educa­tion in Illinois, and the United States, and what one group hopes to do about those challenges.