For some time now, people have been talking about a crisis in American education. The crisis certainly does exist. Twenty years ago, the U.S. was ranked #1 in education. Now we're ranked #25 in the world. Veteran teachers – teachers who have been in the public school system for decades – often talk about “how it used to be.” The kids are different. The behavior is often worse. Pedagogy is different. Standardized tests have multiplied and changed the learning environment. Classrooms – schools – are not as safe. The gap between black and white, brown and yellow, increases and increases. The notion of equality in the schools has now become a nostalgic, utopian ideal stretched so thin that it will snap – or has snapped – leaving two broken pieces on the floor. One part is well-educated. One part is ill-educated. And in between is the muddled middle.
But there is a huge disconnect here, and in a country – in a world – where everything, irrevocably, is connected, that’s a problem. Which is the point I am making now: we are all connected, linked inextricably. A child who fails in Chicago is somehow linked to the stock exchange in
Manhattan. A school system that is segregated – by color, by culture, by socio-economic status, and by achievement – and splitting apart, into the haves and the have nots, will certainly affect us all.
A worker who is poorly educated will affect the workers' compensation system – negatively. And a worker who is well-educated will also affect the workers' compensation system – positively. It's a no-brainer (pun not intended) that injured workers are often less educated than the average worker and those receiving workers' comp benefits are the least educated of all. Workers who lack the education or skills to seek better job opportunities are trapped in jobs that are usually more dangerous, not to mention unhealthy and poorly paid.
So what does this mean for the workers' compensation community? Well, it’s obvious. The legal community, like all communities in the country – the medical community, the arts community, the religious community, the labor community – must link together and demand an improvement in the educational system. Education is the Special Interest for us all. Do what we can to move education to the top of the political agenda, especially in the coming presidential election. Better schools are better for the workers' compensation system. They are better for everyone, everywhere.
The quality of a system depends on the quality of its workers. Quality, one would think, depends on education. And, if we have workers who are poorly educated, it will certainly translate into a workers' compensation system that will become more and more burdened with the strain of handling a high influx of uneducated workers coming out (or dropping out) of American high schools.