Early last week the Senate held hearings on the state of education.
Like a car wreck it was hard to watch. We stop and look, feel pity, but do not want to get involved? Statistics can make one feel hopeless. Findings such as a majority of our children finished below the 50 percentile on standardized test scores; out of 65,000 people in the Virgin Islands over the age of 25, 12,000 don't have a 9th grade education and another 12,000 did not graduate from high school; over 3000 children on St. Croix live in poverty; the Department of Education cannot attract enough qualified teachers; and out of over 1400 teachers only about 400 are certified.
V.I. teachers receive less in salary than on the mainland, by approximately $10,000. Yet already this year, the V.I. received over $40 million in federal funding. Per capita our children should be getting one of the best educations under the American flag, but they don't.
We send back or do not apply for some funding. While these Senate hearings were being held, thieves broke into Central High School with a forklift and stole vocational equipment and with that the hearts of our young people and teachers.
Commissioner Noreen Michaels could not commit her budget to hire the staff to secure the schools and to receive federal funds for this purpose of protection. Can't she try harder? The governor feels he must have more parking space and other luxuries for his taxpayer paid, mansion on the hill. Is there something wrong with living and meeting guests in the Government House? Other governors have in the past. Maybe consideration could be made to reduce his 20-car fleet of vehicles to avoid his parking dilemma. This could also apply to all his departments as well as the Senate. This is just one example of government excess and inefficiency.
So what can we do folks instead of continuing to watch this wreck take place on our children? First register to vote, pick the candidates who you feel holds education as important.
Also become more involved in reading, for your children and yourself. Recently the National Endowment for the Arts conducted a study on our national reading habits (July 8, 2004). A lot of us did not get a chance to read it. You see that's the problem. It pointed to the fact that in every category of age, race, gender, income level and education reading is down. More than half the U.S. population has settled for denying themselves this basic pleasure, even though most can read. The challenge here is not to make people read more, but to make them want to read more.
Active readers are more likely to enjoy life while helping others in the process. They are more likely to earn more money and have a higher standard of living than non-active readers. They visit museums more; enjoy cultural, sports and musical events more than non-readers. They are three times more likely to do charity work and volunteer.
They have lower rates of depression. Why? Because they engage their minds.
It is not like TV or other forms of electronic formats where information is preprocessed. Readers connect with books as if entering into a dialog. A book is not talking at you but with you. A book is a comforting friend always ready to entertain and educate. Not reading can affect your heath. Alzheimer's is escalating due to heredity and other factors, but it also due to a lack of active engagement of the adult mind. This disease might be slowed down with increased reading.
So with this information I hope you go and visit your public library or bookstore. Join a reading club, join the friends of the libraries, but just use that wonderful gift of reading today, and vote for politicians that truly believe in education.
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