Why Education Matters

children_250655326Why is education so important?  Why should educational quality and access matter to people of faith? All children, no matter what they look like or how much money their parents have, are made in God's image. God's design is for each person to have the resources to be a participating, self-sufficient, and dignified member of society, and a quality education is the catalyst for opportunity and the ability to provide for oneself. E.D. Hirsch agrees: "Inferior education is today the primary cause of social and economic injustice."

Yet as ESA Founder and President Emeritus Ron Sider points out in his book, Fixing the Moral Deficit: A Balanced Way to Balance the Budget, if the United States continues its current pattern of expenditures and deficits, by the year 2025 Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and interest on the national debt will use up all federal income. This means all funding for education (as well as law enforcement, scientific research, and other important programs) will have to be borrowed, a particularly frightening thought in light of the significant budget cuts that schools and educational programs are already undergoing.

Sider condemns current policies: "It is intergenerationally unjust to demand that our working children and grandchildren spend so much on our health care that they cannot afford to fund quality education, wise research and good infrastructure that will produce a flourishing economy in the future." In an article in TIME magazine, Fareed Zakaria observes, "The federal government spends $4 on every adult over 65, compared with $1 on every child under 18. That is a statement about our priorities, favoring consumption over investment, the present over the future, ourselves over our children."

Of course, Social Security and other programs that provide for our seniors are important, but all people–and especially seniors–should be concerned about the current state of federal spending and its potential impact on the future of their children and grandchildren, particularly as it relates to educational opportunity. The issue is just too important to ignore any longer.

"Knowledge (via education)," Sider writes, "is probably the most important capital in an information society." In an article on Christian perspectives on welfare reform, researchers name low-quality education as the "supreme injustice" and the easiest path to ensure a lifetime of poverty.  They go on to describe one's educational opportunities as an essential component of social capital, along with economic opportunity and social mobility.

From a Christian framework, one's social capital is linked with the concept of shalom, which embodies justice, peace, and whole relationships. Working towards alleviating the effects of poverty and improving education for young people are important steps toward realizing shalom for all people. Will the church view education as an issue of social policy, an opportunity to positively influence young people and to build healthy communities? As well-known visionary John Perkins declares, "real equality … reaches out into every aspect of community and social life and heals people and makes them proud of what they have and who they are."

Share what your community is doing to ensure that every child has the opportunity to succeed and give us your ideas in the comment section below!

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