The Trib’s ed contents today

To my delight and frustration the Trib over the past several months has had more stories worthy of my attention than a couple of years ago. The tend not to be local but if they are worth reading I appreciate it.

Today I read three things with interest.

In the bygones there was a second mention of the Bryant Elementary School being closed. That is the first thing I remember reading about when I moved to Duluth 40 years ago. It was located at the foot of West End, today’s Lincoln Park. We sold it for a truck mall for $1 dollar. That one dollar was worth more in 1974 dollars than the $1 dollar we sold Lincoln Middle School for last year.

On page 3 there was a story about folks in their fifties and sixties still paying off student loans from their college years twenty and thirty years ago.

While student debt is not the prevailing type of debt among senior citizens _ most common are mortgages and credit cards _ about 706,000 households headed by someone 65 or older carry debt from their education. That’s 3 percent of households headed by someone in that age groupI c

According to this story this debt has soared in recent years:

The GAO also found that in 2005, the outstanding federal student debt for this age group was about $2.8 billion; by last year, it had climbed to more than $18 billion.

All this leads me to wonder at what our current young people’s student debt will look like if they find themselves, as thy most assuredly will, in the same boat once they’ve set off out to sea. It will be trillions upon trillions of bad debt.

Which leads me to the third item, yet another plea from one of my predecessor’s on the Board, Tony Stauber, for Duluth to consider the value of vocational education. He notes:

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 72 percent of Americans older than 25 have not received a bachelor’s degree, and the Department of Labor reports 37 percent of employed college graduates are working in jobs that require only a high school diploma. Yet we have education decision-makers sitting behind desks in St. Paul and Washington, D.C., requiring programs like No Child Left Behind, STEM skills, Common Core and more, including excessive testing and, now, more science. From what I have heard, few educators support this or find it adds much to students’ needs, interests and abilities.

Tony takes me mildly to task (without naming me) for being one of the three Board members to respond to his emails but who referred him to administrators in the District who would be able to answer his voc. ed. related questions rather than answer them ourselves.

I do think Tony is right on. I think the same folks who have put a premium on college prep classes are the same crowd who thought spending half a billion on new schools would make ours a fully functioning school system. How sad that the results aren’t what we would wish.

I’ve actually thought about these ideas for a long time. Before I was finally elected I ran three times for the Board. During this early period I recall writing a letter to the editor suggesting that the early 1990’s school boards attempt to take kids out of study halls and put them in additional classes was excessive and was not really student friendly. For this I was roundly criticized by our area’s Juvenile Court Judge in a withering reply letter to the Trib.

I didn’t respond again to the Trib, which wouldn’t have published my re-reply anyway. I did write the Judge a personal letter explaining, as I recall, that with a high drop out rate already the idea of burdening more kids with classes they couldn’t cope with wouldn’t make his job any easier. He sent me a thoughtful and rather apologetic reply which I appreciated. I kept voting for him until his retirement.

I still stand by my Dad’s old notion that learning ought to be a joy rather than a drudge. Our nation is all too eager to lean in the latter direction.

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