I'm writing this today because I am a business owner of an information technology company who has noticed a recent, alarming trend in our employee candidate reviews. The better candidates have received their primary and secondary education outside of the United States. They are more equipped to solve problems, which is the primary skill we require.
I'd prefer to hire young people from our own community, yet when they continually ask senior management how to dissect customer problems into relevant and irrelevant pieces of information, I simply cannot afford to pay their salaries.
I have been actively voicing this concern in education task force committee meetings and with city leaders for the past decade. My concerns fall on deaf ears. This is not a problem to be solved with "technical training," and no amount of money approved by the legislature can make it better without a systemic change. I can teach anyone with aptitude to use our development tools. As a matter of fact, the tools change so frequently that a candidates college coursework is less of a concern that what is going on between his two ears. Can he take a problem, dissect it, and solve it on his own? This is the learning that begins as early as a child is able to read and communicate and not enough young people are as skilled at it as they should be.
That is why my husband and I made the effort to explore and understand Common Core Standards which we understood would require more public school instruction in critical thinking and problem solving. As conservative Oklahomans, we did have some reservations and skepticism about the federal government's choosing of these standards or the curriculum that would be necessary to meet the standards. We were relieved to learn that curriculum choice is up to our school districts. We understand that this is not an edict of the federal government; it is an opportunity that is right for Oklahoma.
I have seen some irresponsible and very untrue statements made by our Oklahoma legislators who do not seem to understand the definitions of the words standards and curriculum or the difference between the two. I have also learned that parents in some states are concerned about lowering of test scores because it seems that they would rather keep the bar set low than to raise the standards. I cannot believe that Oklahomans would prefer to live in ignorant bliss. I know it isn't true because Oklahomans have supported the school system A-F grading. Now more than ever our communities are concerned enough to make a bold choice and a dramatic change. Students must learn at higher levels than in the past. The work is more challenging but the result will be better preparation for post secondary education and the workplace.
As a former Oklahoma educator from 1990-1994, I know how challenging it is to be a school teacher. As a parent of six children, I know how challenging it can be to parent. As a business owner, I know how challenging it is to find quality employees. Yet if we all don't find all find a role to play in a courageous innovation to our education system, the gap between the top and bottom incomes will continue to grow. Those educated in our public schools will earn salaries that continue to shift towards the bottom.
These changes hold great promise for creating a more highly skilled workforce and for giving our families a better foundation for a strong economic future.