For years it was believed that a good education led to a good job. A better education
led to a better job. Educators and economists alike have contended since the 19th
century that building on one's education is an investment in one's future career.
This investment carries over to the economic development of the country
where a well educated populace is not only essential for the survival of a democracy,
but also for increasing the economic power of a nation. Thus, for nearly a century,
government and society have invested heavily in education, specifically higher
But recently some people have been questioning this thinking.
In this lesson, students will review the issue of whether higher education and
more college graduates will help the United States remain a world class economic
power. They will review key points of the opposing sides and either debate the
issue themselves or write an OP/ED persuasive article discussing the issue and
arriving at a conclusion they can support with facts and research.
Open this activity with students about their plans
for furthering their education after high school. You might want to preface this
with some general comments about the diversity of the United States economy and
that while employment demands can be up or down, generally, there are different
levels of employment for different levels of education. Ask students to share
their post-graduation plans and the reasons for them.
Then write on the front
board or overhead the following quote from President Barack Obama. Explain to
students that this quote is from the president's first major speech to a joint
session of Congress in February, 2009. He spoke of the urgent need to expand the
promise of education in America. He warned that competition in a global economy
had increased and that a lack of a good education was a prescription for a nation's
economic decline. Then he explained what he wanted done:
"I ask every
American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career
training. This can be community college or a four-year school; vocational training
or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need
to get more than a high school diploma. And dropping out of high school is no
longer an option. It's not just quitting on yourself, it's quitting on your country
- and this country needs and values the talents of every American. That is why
we will provide the support necessary for you to complete college and meet a new
goal: by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college
graduates in the world."
Have students break up into small groups of
3-4 students and discuss the following questions. Then have one spokesperson from
each group share the groups answers.
- Summarize President Obama's
call to action for every American.
- Ask students to comment on the
president's statement that "dropping out of high school is no longer an option."
Will more college educated Americans help keep America economically competitive?
In this main activity, students
will examine many of the arguments for and against increasing the number of college
graduates so the United States can remain a world economic power.
For and Against Review
Either share with students the main points of the
Background Reading or have students read it themselves. This can be given as homework
the night before you begin the main activity.
Divide students into groups
of four. Distribute the student handout "Arguments for and against increasing
the number of college graduates so the United States can remain a world class
economic power" to all students. Have the students work in their groups to
review both sides of the argument and discuss the questions below each section.
At this point you can decide to have the groups of four students hold debates
on the topic or move to the Assessment section and write an OP/ED piece for a
local newspaper or online publication. You can also have students do both. You
might elect to have students do some more research on the two sides from outside
sources. One source is the Miller
Center National Debate on this topic. There students can find a copy of the
paper that the argument points were derived from. Students can also find related
articles and reports on the topic and a video of the debate held at the Center.
If you have students hold their own debates, you might want to hold off having
them view the video until their debates are completed.
Have students write a position paper as to whether they believe increasing
the number of college graduates will help the United States remain a world class
economic power. Students' work should include an introduction, a review of the
main points for each side, their thoughts on what policy they feel the government
should take to address the issue, and a conclusion supported with facts from their