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Combating poverty step 1: Education

By   /   January 22, 2014  /   Comments

Yesterday, I wrote about the news that Albany is still one of the poorest communities in the country.  Obviously, that’s not exactly a shock to most of us.  However, pointing out that fact will only do so much in changing anything.  Here at the Journal, we don’t just report the news, we do our best to make our community as strong as humanly possible.  Yesterday, I said that I would outline some proposals that should work toward improving our lot in life as a community and turning the tide from being one of the poorest communities and help us thrive.

The logical place to begin is education.  Time and time again, we see that the more education an individual has, the higher the average lifetime earnings that person can expect.  This is a hard fact.

The Dougherty County School System is far from recovered from the years of horrid mismanagement it endured at the hands of Dr. Joshua Murfree.  However, it is still the key to making Albany into what it should be while erasing what it is.  Unfortunately, it’s hands are tied in many ways.  Curriculum comes from the State, which is often pressed for by the Federal government, neither of which really understand what Albany is going through.

However, curriculum is only part of the problem.  As it stands, even the most prosperous regions of our state deal with the exact same curriculum.  While it may not be perfect, it’s certainly not the problem.

Much of the problem in Albany stems from a culture which doesn’t value education.  They want the nice things that an education could provide, but they think they can find an easy road to accomplishing that.  It just doesn’t work that way.

“I’m going to be a professional basketball player,” they might say.  Good luck with that.  Sure, some people actually do go pro.  Some gain some serious notoriety in their chosen sports.  Just look at Deon Branch and Ray Knight for two area examples.  However, those aren’t the norm.

The NCAA reports that, in most sports, less than two percent of all college athletes go on to play professional sports.  College athletes.  That doesn’t even count the number of high school athletes that don’t get college scholarships.  Only one sport saw higher than that two percent, and that was baseball where there are a whole lot more teams for athletes to find themselves on.  Between all of the minor league teams, less than 12 percent find themselves on a professional team.

Clearly, the “I’m gonna go pro” career path doesn’t work.

By contrast, the numbers for getting into medical school are far, far higher.  In fact, 44 percent of applicants are accepted into medical school.  So, basically, the path to success that runs through education has a far, far higher success rate than professional athletics.  Not only that, but unlike sports that require a significant degree of talent, the educational path is based more on how hard an individual works.

Of course, not everyone is cut out for medical school.  Some people don’t really have the predisposition for traditional college for whatever reason.  It’s not that their stupid, necessarily.  It’s that they just aren’t cut out for that particular educational model.  Luckily, there are alternatives for this as well.

So, all this and I still haven’t said what does the school system needs to do?

First, there needs to be an emphasis placed on kids at early ages that education is the only surefire way to succeed in life.  Sure, some people get lucky, but that’s generally what it is.  They need to hear that.  A lot.

Statistics need to be illustrated to them.  Again, a lot.  They need to see the comparisons between the percentage of athletes, or musicians, or whatever that actually make it to those who succeed academically.  It’s a higher percentage shot.  It’s a lay up, not a three pointer from half court.

I won’t say exactly how to get through to the kids, because I have a hard enough time just getting through to mine.  However, it’s clear that we have to try.

“But I don’t want to go to college,” some might say.  What they’re talking about is that they don’t want to sit in a class room for four years, studying subjects that bore them to tears.  For these, perhaps technical education is for the best.  Dirty Jobs host Mike Rowe has recently become pretty vocal about his belief in technical education, and for good reason.  After all, computer programmers can be outsourced to India.  Plumbers? Not so much.

It’s important that we get through to the kids about the value of education.  If the Dougherty County School System could do that, then we would see significant improvement in Albany in no time flat.  Of course, that’s hardly the only thing we need to really rebound.

Tom Knighton is the Editor and Publisher of the Albany Journal.

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Owner / Editor / Writer

Tom Knighton is the publisher of The Albany Journal. In November, 2011, he became the first blogger to take over a newspaper anywhere in the world. In August of 2012, he made the difficult decision to take the Journal out of print circulation and become an online news agency, a first for the Albany area.

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