Our Opinion: Employers lament lack of basic education

If knowledge is power, are we becoming a nation of weaklings?

Tuesday’s News Tribune included an Associated Press story that reported Kansas City manufacturers are unable to find workers to fill high-paying jobs.

The problem is not necessarily a lack of vocational skills, it is a lack of basic education.

“We can train our own welders,” said Steve Hasty, owner of A&E Custom Manufacturing in the greater Kansas City area, “but it has to start with people who have respect for what we do, who are accountable for their actions, who are able to complete a sentence that our customers can understand.

“We’re talking reading, writing, arithmetic,” Harvey added, “plus an attitude of “What can I help you do?’ rather than ‘What can you do for me?’”

Added John Patrick, president of Clay & Bailey Manufacturing in the greater Kansas City area: “We’re finding a lack of basic math skills. Some applicants can’t even read a ruler, let along operate calipers or other measuring devices.”

Employers are not alone in lamenting this deficit in education. Colleges and universities also rely on remedial classes to elevate some high school graduates to the educational level required for higher education.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education reports: “According to the 2011 CBHE (Coordinating Board for Higher Education) report, 36 percent of 23,969 public high school graduates entering in-state public colleges and universities in fall 2010 enrolled as freshmen in at least one remedial course in the basic academic subjects of English, mathematics, or reading.”

These are sad comments that touch on basic education, parenting skills and students’ attitudes.

Recent news stories have explored various aspects of educational standards, curriculum and testing. Lawmakers, educators, patrons and parents continue to discuss and debate Common Core standards, Constitutional Amendment 3 on the November ballot, the academy model, the Missouri School Improvement Program’s annual performance report and countless other systems and measurements.

We’re not dismissing the importance of these issues. Our concern is that the three Rs identified by Hasty appear to be getting lost in the educational shuffle.

Compounding the problem, character education — teaching respect, accountability and other virtues — now is part of the school curriculum.

Schools have not taken on this added assignment because they have time and resources to spare, they have done so because it is not being addressed sufficiently at home.

Clearly, everyone — educators, parents and students — must do better.

The correlation linking education to earning power and quality of life is well documented.

A basic education is a foundation for living. Without the power of knowledge, problems and peril loom.

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