Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2008 | 2:02 a.m.
In August, Brian Greenspun turns over his Where I Stand column to guest writers. Today’s columnist is Jim Rogers, the owner of Sunbelt Communications and chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education.
What would you think if you came across a newspaper headline, “Teenagers found naked and starving: Parents refused to clothe and feed children,” that was accompanied by the following story?
“Billy Brown, 14, and his sister Janie Brown, 13, were found in their middle-class home, both naked and malnourished. A child of Billy’s age should be about 5 feet 4 inches tall and weigh approximately 112 pounds. The girl, Janie, should be approximately 5 feet 2 inches tall and weigh 100 pounds. Billy weighs 65 pounds and his sister weighs 45 pounds.
“When the parents were asked how the children got in this condition, they responded, ‘Although we had the money to both feed and clothe our children, we decided not to do so because all the companies that produce food and clothing are inefficiently run and have too many administrators. Besides, the cost of food and clothing is simply too high.’
“When questioned by reporters about the particulars of their allegations, the parents said they had no direct information about the so-called inefficiencies of the clothing and food companies, but simply had heard rumors to that effect. Therefore, they felt totally justified in starving and not clothing their children.”
So, you might be asking yourself, what does the hypothetical situation posed above have to do with education? Plenty. Let me explain.
There are approximately 400,000 students in K-12 in Nevada, 305,000 in Southern Nevada. There are approximately 110,000 students in the eight public higher education institutions.
With more than 500,000 students enrolled in school, one would conclude there are about 1 million parents who are directly involved in their children’s education. These 1 million parents certainly constitute the single most important and influential voting bloc in the state.
But rather than provide their children an education, too many in this bloc of 1 million voters have decided that based on rumor, not fact, Nevada’s system of education is inefficient, unproductive and, in general, a failure. Therefore, they have decided to prevent their children from obtaining an adequate education. In spite of the allegations of some members of the public that education is inefficient, refusing to adequately financially support the education system simply makes no sense.
I have been involved in the higher education system for more than four years. I deal on a daily basis with K-12. There is no question in my mind that the systems are not perfect. But I tell you in good faith that the systems are as efficient and as productive as any enterprise.
In fact, I am more than surprised that the Nevada education system continues to function when the public refuses to support it, not only with adequate funding, but also with the moral support all of us need to make us want to do a good job. If a business owner treated his employees the way the public treats its schoolteachers, he’d have no employees.
The legislators of this state respond to what they believe to be the will of the people. The legislators cannot be blamed for starving your children and preventing them from obtaining a real education if the public, which is totally involved in the education system, does not send a message to the Legislature that it no longer wishes to deny its children an education any more than it would deny its children food and clothing.
The Legislature needs parents to instruct the Legislature that it must respond to the educational needs of all children, K-16.