Monday, December 13, 2004


Good story in the local daily the other day about Census data that shows that Nebraska is gaining in ill-educated population but losing in college-educated population.

From 1995 to 2000, in the group ages 22-29, we lost 5,100 people with college degrees. But we gained 6,912 without them, including mostly immigrants with less than a high-school education. Most disturbing is that we lost 1,278 people with graduate or professional degrees in those years.

It’s ‘’the brain drain,’’ and it has very serious implications.

Our daughter is a good example: a National Merit Scholar out of Omaha Westside, she turned down a full ride to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to go to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She got a little scholarship money, but not much. They outrecruited her, that’s all -- same thing as has happened lately with the N.U. football team. Well, we just found out that she will graduate Phi Beta Kappa in May, and she’s applying to law schools . . . but none in Nebraska.

Her brain has been drained! WAH!

State officials are saying to plug this drain, we need to beef up our economic development efforts pronto, to make sure there are lots of opportunities for high-paying jobs and business start-ups. Duhhh! Don’t hold your breath, but that’s been obvious for years. That means smart tax policy, which means tax cuts, which means cutting spending, which means innovating.

And I say there’s a way to lop off at least 25 percent of our K-12 education costs and attract talented people at the same time. Here it is: we need a statewide initiative to make Nebraska’s schools the best in the nation.

We can do it by throwing out the mushy Whole Language and Whole Math curriculum and philosophy. Then we can start to teach kids to read, write and figure in the early grades the correct way, with phonics only. Then we would no longer struggle and spend to remediate them all through school, trying to address learning deficiencies and personal problems that wouldn’t have been created if we’d taught them to read with systematic, intensive, explicit phonics by direct instruction in the early grades.

We would blow other states away on standardized tests within a few years if we would do this. Hey! It’ll be a few years before the football team is No. 1 again. So why don’t we show ‘em how, by getting there first in the more important realm (well, to most folks) of learning power?

Why don’t we round up the six or seven high-intellect individuals we still have left in the state to come up with a plan to get that common-sense solution in place . . . and start attracting college grads to Nebraska again, if not for cool new jobs, then to get their kids into our first-in-the-nation schools that teach reading right.


Follow-up to Friday’s ‘’Merry Absurdity’’ story about our private preschool banning ‘’Merry Christmas’’ from the parent newsletter I volunteered to write: they changed their minds! As long as I added ‘’Happy Hanukkah’’ and ‘’Happy Kwanza,’’ the ‘’Merry Christmas’’ could stand. Since Ramadan is over, they didn’t request mention of that. It’s still a little silly, since only one of the 105 families is Jewish and Hanukkah is not a biggie in that faith, anyway, and none celebrate Kwanza, but at least the censorship didn’t stand. I’m happy to say so, and indebted to Family First of Nebraska for their excellent and convincing memo that helped save the day.

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