It was 1919, and the boys were home from World War I.
But the world was changing — and changing fast — and leaders from the National Education Association and American Legion were distressed to learn that a quarter of all war veterans were illiterate. Yet many Americans didn’t see that as a problem. Fewer than one in five adult Americans had a high school diploma back then, and some folks didn’t recognize the value of providing an education to people who “already had their chance.”
It was this challenge that prompted the NEA and the Legion to band together to create the first American Education Week, “for the purpose of informing the public of the accomplishments and needs of the public schools and to secure the cooperation and support of the public in meeting those needs.”
A lot has changed in the past 100 years. U.S. veterans are now more likely to have completed high school and college than their fellow Americans, and literacy rates among all Americans is at a historic high. It is certainly fair to offer a big part of the credit for these accomplishments to the men and women who banded together, a century ago, to raise the flag for education.
Today we have 31 million adults who still do not have a high school diploma. We still need more members of society to recognize the value of providing an education to people who didn’t earn one in the traditional way. And once again, this challenge is one of communication.
This year, during American Education Week, it’s important for all of us to reflect on what we can do to help our fellow Americans understand the importance of ensuring that everybody has an equitable opportunity to earn a diploma and acquire the knowledge and skills they need to get and keep living wage employment.
Graduation Alliance brings the conversation up daily with school districts, departments of education, workforce agencies, local and state government officials and so many other organizations on how we can help the adult population. We share what we have learned over the past five years of providing high school diplomas to adults and how banding together like they did 100 years ago can make a difference.
Will we raise the flag in this century? We should indeed. For, once again, the world is changing — and changing fast.
Graduation Alliance partners with school districts, workforce agencies and various organizations to help create alternative paths for individuals who need flexibility and support to earn a diploma. To learn more about Graduation Alliance’s services, simply click here.