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The Ever-Changing World of Education.

Posted Monday, October 31, 2011, at 3:50 PM

Education is more important than ever. This is an easy statement to make. Every educator in history has shared this belief but today there is more truth in this statement than in the past. There are two main elements that illustrate the validity of this statement.

1. Advances in technology continue to accelerate.

2. The demographics of the world are rapidly changing.

Let's first explore the technology aspect of the importance of education. From farmers to truckers, delivery personnel to carpenters, and yes, even teachers and students, technology is changing at warp speed. 30 years ago teachers used the perceived need for technology to motivate students who would become programmers, engineers, stockbrokers, and doctors. Today, the average fifth grader has more technological tools and thus skills than a nuclear scientist of 40 years ago. Any parent, grandparent, or guardian who begins a conversation on education with a "...when I was in school..." statement chooses to ignore the rate of change in the world. I have yet to have a conversation with anyone who advocates going back to a world without cell phones, arthroscopic surgery, air conditioners, the Internet, satellite TV, and manual check out cash registers. Yet, some want to return to the "good ole days of education". Like the rest of the world, we must continue to advance. This advancement must occur through formal education. Students cannot simply work harder, they must all work smarter.

Second, demographics. Our population is changing. We are aging. This can be illustrated by commercials. Most commercials 40 years ago targeted the younger generation. One would occasionally see a denture adhesive commercial (Polygrip) or an energy supplement for the older population (Geritol), but for the most part there were young adults seeing the USA in their new car, or smoking their favorite brand of cigarettes. Today we see elderly life insurance, baby boomers on motorcycles, reverse mortgages, and those enhancements that I cannot watch with my grown children in the room. The reason that ads have changed is that our population has changed. Every year before 1965 the largest segment of the population was between 0-4. Today, the largest segment of our population is between 45-49 and 50-54. There are more people in Dyer County between 60-64 than from 0 to 5. In 1965 there were three times as many children between 0-4 as there were 60-64.

This is not unique to Dyer County, it is statewide and countywide. In urban areas such as Davidson County (Nashville) the average age in the general population is younger but still profoundly different from 1965. The more rural areas such as Lake Co. have an even greater age disparity. The question becomes, who will perform the jobs vacated by our aging workforce? Will the young be prepared? Will our talented young people even stay in Dyer County?

This brings us back to the initial thesis; Education is more important than ever. In 1965 there was a greater number of students in the educational pool. If we lost a few it was not a disaster. There were others to take positions that required educational skills. Today with our finite number of future workers, we cannot afford to lose as many. And furthermore, there are fewer jobs that do not require technical skills. Yes, education is more important than ever. Our students are a dwindling resource that we must manage with greater care. To bring it down to terms we can all relate to; who will be running my nursing home.

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Dyersburg City Schools
Neel Durbin
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