My wife and I attended a panel discussion, part of East-West Gateway Council of Governments’ Where We Stand series, designed to investigate whether the St. Louis region has the “human capital” to compete in the future global economy, and whether everyone is equally prepared. Moderated by the Executive Director of FOCUS St. Louis, Dr. Yemi Akande-Bartch, the panelists included Dr. William Tate, Dean of Wash U’s graduate school; David Stoecklin, Madison County’s employment/training expert; and Brenda Mahr, CEO of the nonprofit Employment Connection.
Their short answers were “no” and “no.”
As panelists answered the moderator’s questions, it seemed clear that one reason is today’s K-12 education.
Specifically, Dr. Tate discussed what students need from education after age 4. Apparently, they aren’t getting it. He also said that when American students’ applications for grad school are compared to foreigners’ “it isn’t even close.” Dr. Akande-Bartch concluded there are “serious problems in education.”
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Mr. Stoecklin speculated perhaps, “two-thirds of (future) jobs” will require specialized education — not a college degree — but under financial pressure, schools cut vocational education first.
All agreed that employers must have a bigger voice in what local schools teach.
So, we wonder whether Illinois’ Vision 20/20 emphasis on the “whole child” (“expand from a pure academic focus” to include “social and emotional standards”) is a move in the wrong direction for the St. Louis region. Diluting education seems the opposite of what the panel says is needed for successful involvement in the global economy.
Richard L. Skillings, Troy