Our society urgently needs a better-educated public! Uninvolved, ignorant drones watching the tube cannot compete in a world that gets smaller and more competitive daily.
Education is to be considered part of the process of becoming a responsible adult citizen, able and willing to manage and prosper within society as it is, and also able and willing to work to improve that society.
A well-built, well-maintained, well-funded education system is the engine of prosperity. A lot of people are worried about the current state of our education. This worry is justified. The reform and improvement of K-12 and college education must be elevated to high priority for attention and funding.
As part of this process, there is to be evaluation of existing efforts at education and education reform. This is to involve study of private efforts, perhaps one such example being the Montessori schools, and study of public efforts from other jurisdictions in the United States and elsewhere. The goal is a library of "best practices" covering all aspects of education, such library to be available to all.
Montana is perfect for pilot projects, some of which could be funded partially or entirely by federal funds. A Senator committed to education most likely could obtain grants and seed money, perhaps requiring a small percentage of funds commitment from the state level as well, as currently with highway repair. Montana can build on its natural advantages by choosing to become a laboratory for innovation, the payoffs being an improved economy, more active citizens, and a healthier environment. Then Montana can target intentionally that large fraction of the most desired citizens who, if they can, choose location first and who then look for employment.
Montana is certain to benefit economically from a serious and well-publicized effort at education reform. Business more and more are likely to locate in areas that exhibit such a commitment.
Those working on reform must address consistently, frankly, directly, the problem of “squelchers,” those who reject and fear innovation, those who reject and fear the development of broad, competent, informed citizens. Those working on reform must address consistently, frankly, directly the problem of corporate media, which has a vested interest in producing ignorant, isolated, obedient consumers, and which fears an active citizenry. There is an independent streak in Montana culture which too often expresses itself as belligerence, but which has the potential to be reconnected to the concept best expressed by Franklin Roosevelt, “Remember, remember always, that all of us ... are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.”
The citizens of Montana, or anywhere, will to a considerable extent have to make reform happen themselves. In previous decades, U.S. businesses promoted education, of course as much as possible within the consumer paradigm, not the citizen paradigm, because business needed people at least developed enough to hold jobs. Now this is less the case because businesses hire people worldwide. To be frank, a lot of businesses could care less about Montana, unless we provide reasons for them to care.
Much reform can be done without spending that much more money. That said, however, the citizens of Montana must accept the basic need for more money, more money, more money for education. The citizens of Montana must be willing to invest the money now for an improved society and a more healthy economy down the road. There's simply no way around that.
Then, once the money is available, there must be an ongoing effort to get the very most out of every penny. If the citizens of Montana think that any more money will simply be "thrown at the problem," not targeted toward specific projects which stand a good change of producing specific results, then any efforts to increase the available money will fail. There needs to be a website showing exactly what money is obtained from where, and exactly how it is being spent on what, and for exactly what specific reasons and goals.
So where does the money come from? This might require addressing the issue of tax reform in a broader sense. Obviously the real property tax carries too heavy a burden at present. A fair tax system might include no property tax at all, no estate tax, no income tax (individual or corporate), with a progressive net worth tax and a with-exceptions sale tax. Such a system would go after the hidden wealth of the very rich who at present evade their fair share of the burden. It would be considered fair by practically everyone. Of course such reform would affect much more than education.
Class size will remain a key indicator of sufficient resources, but must not be considered the only measure of success.
The goal is to produce well-developed citizens who, as a part of this citizenship, can earn a decent living. This must include more practical experience in the activities of government such as serving on committees, political activity. Obviously, this poses a dangerous threat to those economic interests that prefer people to be consumers, not citizens.