The challenge of change

March 14, 2012 

In my last column I talked about the need to celebrate our children, and while I am totally committed to that idea, today I want to look at another part of the equation. We have 55.4 percent of our children not graduating from high school and if you look across the state at graduation rates, Georgia ranks 47th. There can be no thoughtful person reading this column who believes that this is acceptable.

Along with the challenge that lies before us as a local community and statewide to ensure that we better educate all of our children, is the issue of the effectiveness of our national education model as a part of the world arena. We know there are many places in the world that have mastered educating their citizens better than we have. Because of the interconnections of all of us on the planet, we have to take notice. Perhaps there was a time when we could ignore the world stage, but that time has come and gone.

Our reluctance to embrace change is natural both in our private lives and in the larger life of the community, but at some point in time we have to get beyond our fear and the hesitation that comes with it and move on to the new places that must be embraced in order to continue to live more effectively.

At the present in Bibb County we are trying to work our way into major changes in our school system. If we are willing to be honest, we all know that change is necessary, even if we don’t have a completely perfect plan for moving ahead. We cannot afford to continue to have more than half of our children not receiving high school diplomas.

We do not have children who are expendable regardless of how anyone feels about the masses who do not graduate.

While we continue to appear to find that building prisons is one answer to this issue, I want to be clear in stating my outrage at such a notion. It is interesting to ponder how long we think it will take us to go further down the road to a poorer quality of life in this state, when we continually focus more on ways to contain our unproductive citizens than in trying to ensure they can be productive. It continues to take more resources to work at solving the problem through imprisonment and all of the other troubles that come with underdevelopment of people’s potential than it does to work to ensure they can be productive.

So I have confidence that Superintendent Romain Dallemand and his staff will continue to work to try to develop the best possible plan for our school system that they can imagine at this time. But we need to be clear about the fact that we did not get to this place in our educational history in a short period of time and it is going to take some time to move to a different place.

We also need to work on becoming a community that seeks to be supportive and caring for all citizens and that tries to be open to change. Change is coming to us as individuals and as a community whether we like it or not. It will serve us better to work to embrace change and to see how it can benefit us instead of assuming that it is bad because it is new.

We have to work together regardless of our personal preferences to ensure that we have a public education system that supports all its students in becoming prepared to take their place in our highly technical, demanding and rapidly changing world. We can do it, if we choose to do it.

This column by Catherine Meeks, Ph.D., appears twice monthly. Meeks is also a contributing writer for the Huffington Post. E-mail her at kayma53@att.net.

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