By: Juliann Talkington
Juliann Talkington is the administrator of the Panama City Renaissance School. Reach her on 850-215-8712 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For years small resort communities like Panama City have taken a casual approach to education. Many are significant distances from large cities, so there was little competition and consistent opportunities for those who chose to stay.
Technology is changing everything. Communities like ours are far from isolated. People hold phone conversations half way around the world for free, create their our own music lists with their ipods and can work almost anywhere as long as they have a computer and access to the Internet.
To make matters more challenging, the pace of technological innovation seems to be accelerating, so fast many science and technology topics are obsolete in a few years. One has to wonder what is next. According to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, there will be a computer more powerful than the human brain in about 15 years.
This type of change is disconcerting and unbelievable. In Bay County, we still look out and see undeveloped land and beautiful unspoiled waterways. And a traffic jam means it might take 15 minutes instead of 10 to get across town. As a result, it is hard to believe we are in the midst of such cataclysmic change.
Even though there have been many advancements in our community, it is still difficult to convince companies to relocate here. Businesses, once limited to US locations, can now choose anywhere from Bangalore, India to Rio, Brazil. The foreign competition gets tougher every year.
For example, the US produces a fraction of the science and engineering graduates that China and India generate. In addition, most technical graduates from these countries have a wonderful work ethic and low salary expectations. In addition, there is significant emphasis on foreign language study, so young people from these countries often have good English skills. And China and India are only a small part of the world.
In other words, we are no longer a low cost labor area and our people lag in professional skills. To make matters worse, Panama City certainly doesn’t have the glamour of Hollywood or the history or New York City. So we need to do something special, if we want to have a chance to compete.
To do this we must improve the quality of our work force. The best way to improve the work force is to improve the education we provide our children.
For years it has been an embarrassment that US children score below average on international science and math testing. Now it is more than an embarrassment. If something is not done soon, it means many children from small communities will have limited job opportunities. So changing what we teach and how we teach is critical.