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The Impact of Investing in Education

Something has always bugged me about State of the Union addresses, and I don't just mean the ripe clementinean glow that has been emanating from the top right corner of my TV screen for the past 4+ years. It's the priorities of the speech with which I take issue--they seem so, out of whack.

No, I am not making some grandiose claim about the wayward American soul; a "woe, is me", shame-on-us attack on fast food, Hollywood, and teenage sexting. Instead, I quite literally mean the construct of the speech itself: it frequently appears out of order.

By unwritten rule, each one of these addresses tackles the same cadre of political firepower: the economy, foreign policy, human rights, gun control, immigration reform, tax policy, energy... and oh yeah, throw a quick bone to education.

Education is treated as a wholly separate category from the rest of these topics, yet by its very nature education operates tangentially to each. What good is the economy without a learned population speaking a common language and operating at a high level? What good are human rights without a populace that knows the existing law and understands the cost/benefit analysis of change? How can we have a legitimate discussion about tax policy if the majority of Americans do not understand where cuts would be coming from and how they would affect their lives? How can we spark change in the financial sector if the average citizen does not understand loans, interest rates, and basic budgetary planning?

To be perfectly honest, I don't see how a speech writer could possibly construct a narrative of the health of a nation and not lead off with education. To assess how we are improving, we necessarily must first address how we are learning. The entire speech itself is simply a lecture from our Professor in Chief to his 300 million students/citizens, plus countless international viewers. It's the ultimate MOOC, really.

The point in all of this is that "Education" as a sector is about so much more than just "education." It touches everything from Health to Economics to Defense. In other words, education spurs development and progress across the board. Investing in education by definition means investing in pretty much everything else. As the world exists in 2013, individuals are no longer simply individual--everyone is connected.

You would not believe the impact that a single failing student has on the population at large. So let me show you, via the following infographic created by my company Rethink Education.

Every 26 seconds, an American student will drop out of high school. What then...


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