A fundamental purpose of education is to fuel economic development. Often, education practitioners, civic and political leaders confuse getting a job with economic development.
Surely, developing an educated workforce should be an outcome of education. However, what does that mean in a dual economy that, for whatever reason, precludes people of color from entering certain sectors of the economy perpetuating a tradition of haves and have nots. Indeed, the disproportionate racial profile of persons living in poverty is testament to the perverse inequalities that persist.
Educators are often complicit in sustaining an economic system that denies wealth accumulation by persons living in poverty by failing to align teaching and learning with the economic needs of the community. In this century, it is clear that finance, technology and electronics are the sectors that will grow the economy. The intrinsic intersection between education and economic development demands that the diffusion of skills and knowledge in the schoolhouse has, as one focus, the preparation of young people for the requirements of the economy.
Here the preoccupation with high-stakes testing is a distortion of what being “educated” means for individuals in the community. As the opportunities in the manufacturing and agriculture sectors of the last century continue to wither, it is imperative that the content and character of education be intent on providing students with the requisite skills and knowledge to be active contributors to and beneficiaries of the growth sectors in the economy. This includes being socialized to do so. It also means being anchored in the lessons of the arts and humanities that ensure young people understand the requirements of collaboration, cooperation and life in the commonweal.
No less important is the need for civic and political leadership to invest in the human capital that is essential to innovation and sustaining economic growth for individuals and the community. When societies and empires have collapsed, failure to eradicate inequalities and respond to the demands of modernity is explanatory.
A dual economy based on race and class is an artifact from antiquity when white male supremacy dictated social station. In the information age, the artificial barriers to opportunity are exposed and the pathway out of poverty is clear. We have the knowledge and resources to provide a quality education for all children that can end the pernicious and morally bankrupt cycle of poverty.