As a rookie teacher in Chester High School in 1975, I met a cast of characters who would forever influence my life.  Mr. Dodds, a true mentor who showed me the “the ropes” of a teacher’s daily life in a high school.  Mrs. Harrison’s crusade for students’ rights to learn despite our challenging inner-city environment.  Coach Mosley demonstrating how to believe in students (our football players), knowing that we had to believe in them before they would believe in themselves.  Mr. Kushmider, the administrator who modeled the paradigm that he was responsible for everything that happened under his roof and on his watch.  He may not have been to blame, but he was always responsible.  These folks and many more, contributed to my development as an educator.  

A very popular social studies teacher, Pete Bradley, also managed an assortment of rock bands in the 70s (bands played clubs and events prior to the rise of DJ popularity).  In those days, teachers had to have second jobs to pay the bills.  My second job was painting hospital rooms.  Pete Bradley drove an exquisite 1958 Ford Thunderbird, powder blue with white leather interior and a white convertible top.  Every day, he cruised to Chester High in this dream-mobile.  One day, I asked him, “Don’t you worry bringing a classic car like that to work every day?”  His response has resonated, “First, if you have to drive, it should be fun.  Second, these kids like me and will protect the car, knowing it’s mine.  Third, I like to buy things that appreciate, not depreciate.”  From those few sentences, I came to understand education quite differently.  

Each of us is confronted with expenses and investments.  A car, other than Mr. Bradley’s Thunderbird, is generally an expense.  Depreciation begins upon ownership.  Even if we regularly maintain the vehicle, it is likely to lose value over time.  Contrast that with a house, which is an investment.  Houses generally increase in value the longer you own them and the more you work to improve them.  Totally neglect a house and it will likely depreciate, but it will always be of some value.

Education is like a house, or a blue 1958 Thunderbird – it’s an investment.  When we invest in education, we invest in the future of the individual, the community, and the society as a whole.  Education is the solution to every problem.  The more we learn, the more problems we solve.  Investment in education is a direct investment in problem solving.  Who knows which student will discover the cure for cancer, the next generation of microchips, the floating car, or the solution to world hunger, but one of the students of today will solve these challenges tomorrow.  Investment in education is also demonstrating our values.  When we invest our resources toward learning, the yield is exponential.  One thing we can predict: Reducing our investment in education will certainly not solve these issues.