Calling someone a snob is a bit offensive, especially if that person is the U.S. president. It becomes especially ridiculous if you accuse him of being a snob for advancing higher education. However unseemly Rick Santorum’s comment, and despite the humor it has brought to late night television, his representation does not accurately reflect the views of the man he considers a snob, and bring into question his hopes for the future of our country.
In President Obama’s state of the union speech on Feb. 24, 2009, he challenged everyone in our nation to strive for at least one year of post high school education— one year at a four-year college, community college, apprenticeship, tech school or vocational school. Even though Santorum’s remarks are inaccurate, they still raise the question, why would he call people who promote education, snobs.
High standards of public education are building blocks for economic growth. On a recent trip to Mexico, Oshkosh resident Gary Wagner engaged in conversations with two local men. Victor, whose children attend public school from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., says split school schedules are the norm in Mexico and save money on school buildings. He adds however, that in actuality many days are shorter as children walk and need to be home before dark. Carlos, who was educated in the United States, sends his children to private schools. Wagner believes that since Mexico is unable to provide good paying jobs for its citizens, perhaps they should examine their public educational system.
The rapid growth in technology in both India and China is not a fluke. Their governments have carefully been funding math and science education, technology and engineering programs for twenty years. This explains their soaring expansion in jobs and increasing competition with the United States.
Education is what lifts a country and continues to bestow prosperity. Predictions are that this will be the first generation of Americans not to achieve a higher standard of living than their parents. Is this Santorum’s goal for America? If so, calling a directive for post high school education snobbery has him right on track.
The debate over the value of education brings us to a local issue. In April Oshkosh will vote on a school building referendum. The needs of Oaklawn Elementary are well documented. In a recent article, the Oshkosh Northwestern compared the lack of books and space for a library at Oaklawn with Jefferson, which is the newest building in Oshkosh, has the most books per student, and not surprisingly high test scores.
This is not the time for our city or our country to strive for mediocrity. The decisions we make today concerning education will have an impact on the future for all of us.