Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Faulty Infrastructure: How education can help rebuild our economy

The era of the Great Depression is one of the most memorable within our nation’s young history. Very few were immune to its wrath. American citizens faced inconceivable job loss, homelessness, and hunger while the government frantically worked to solve the issues that created the downward spiral. The same could be said about today’s economy. As parents and educators, there are certain things we can do to help our children survive and thrive during these difficult times.

This week, President Obama gave a speech that focused on one solution to the unemployment epidemic: rebuilding faulty infrastructure across the U.S. that would not only beautify and repair our nation, but would also provide jobs for those out of work. Sound familiar? It should. In 1934 President Roosevelt created the Civil Works Administration, part of the New Deal, which provided jobs to over four million men and women across the nation. The newly employed wholeheartedly embraced their jobs as they fixed damaged roads, faulty bridges, parks, playgrounds and city buildings. Roosevelt’s goal was to rebuild the nation, lift broken spirits, and employ the unemployed. The parallel between Obama’s speech this week, and Roosevelt’s CWA is clear.

Of course, there are skeptics who claim that Obama is simply utilizing scare tactics to help his platform, but regardless of what side of the political fence you stand on, we can all agree on one thing: we need to decrease the unemployment rate and fast. So, what can we do to solve the unemployment problem?

Obama is on the right track with this idea. The CWA provided over four million jobs in the 1930’s, and a similar plan could very well work in today’s failing economy. Can you imagine creating four million jobs to our unemployed, virtually overnight? I will concede that while more jobs would be fantastic, it would only solve this problem temporarily. What if we could employ our youth in drumming up long-term solutions? What if we could empower them and entrust them with the ability to contribute to a flourishing economy? We most certainly can! Not only will we provide our youth with the confidence they are going to need in their adult lives, but our teens will be replacing our government officials faster than we can say “recession;” so why not educate them on the crises and allow them to contribute their ideas and solutions?

As a parent, educator, and founder of one of the most successful private schools in the nation, each of my students are required to “Do a Project” as a prerequisite to graduation. Each student chooses a project that is near and dear to them. Their projects revolve around an idea they are passionate about, and they work on it for the entirety of their high school career. Just to provide you with a few examples of the amazing projects completed by my students, some of the projects included creating the hydrogen fuel cell, the Pharmaceutical Disposal Proposal, CPR for Life, and the creation of the Progressive Brake Light System; only to name a few. These programs have reached countless people and changed society for the better, all while getting them into their top-choice colleges. The Project has the potential to change the world, and students reap the benefits when they receive letters of acceptance into the top colleges they applied for, (not to mention the satisfaction they receive knowing they have positively contributed to the society, and the knowledge that one person really does have the ability to make a difference).

In today’s economic climate, the population seems to glare at our elected politicians with a scrutinizing eye. We wonder why they have failed us, and what they will do to fix it. Sure, they should take the reins and help to solve problems like unemployment and the budget deficit; but by the same token, we should remember that old adage: if you want something done right, do it yourself. So, what are you doing to help solve our nation’s problems, because surely badmouthing our politicians isn’t going to fix a darn thing.

Talk with your family. Include your children in the conversation. If you could describe your perfect world, what would it be like, and how would you achieve it? Choose one of your ideas and put it into action. We can all make a difference, and getting our teens to do a project is a smart way to make it happen.

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