seal  President Jischke Speech

March 24, 2002

Purdue President Martin C. Jischke made these comments Sunday (3/24) at the Sinai Sunday Evening Forum in Michigan City.

Education: Its Promise for Today and Tomorrow

Good evening. It's a great honor to be here tonight.

I notice that Dr. Ruth Westheimer follows me as next month's Sinai Forum speaker. I also can't help but notice that you've had to book a much larger facility to hold Dr. Ruth's audience.

I'm not sure why. We're both in education. Then again – I'm certain everyone knows the difference between Dr. Ruth and a university president. No one ever naps through one of Dr. Ruth's lectures. Maybe I'd have better success if I just followed her lead and talked in a much higher voice.

Since 1954, this forum has had many very distinguished speakers, and it's a privilege to be included among them.

I recently overheard a conversation between two Purdue freshmen who were going to a talk by a person with the title "distinguished professor."

The first student asked: "What's the difference between a lecture given by a professor and a lecture given by a distinguished professor?"

Immediately, the second student answered: "...about 45 minutes."

Oh, how little freshmen know. The difference is much closer to an hour.

Gen. Harry Shelton, former chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, says too often speakers at distinguished forums think they have a license to talk on and on.

Shelton says every time he gives a talk, he reminds himself of a book report a little boy once wrote about Julius Caesar. It went like this:

"Julius Caesar lived a long time ago.

"Julius Caesar was a distinguished leader.

"Julius Caesar made long speeches.

"They killed him."

So while it's a great honor to be here this evening, I promise I will not be too distinguished.

My talk is titled "Education: Its Promise for Today and Tomorrow." Promise means different things to different people. Children promise parents they'll clean their rooms and don't. Parents promise not to embarrass children at school open houses and fail. Oh, how they fail. Former U.S. Senator Eugene McCarthy said politicians should be careful about making promises that people will remember. Movie producer Samuel Goldwyn said: "If you can't give me your word of honor, will you (at least) give me your promise?"

But I assure you, given the opportunity to reach its full potential, education will keep its promise. I believe education is the most important issue facing Indiana and this nation as we begin the 21st century. There is nothing we can do that will have more influence on tomorrow than education today. The promise of education for Indiana and this nation is a better future in which everyone will have the opportunity to reach for their full potential.

Of course, I am speaking to you as the president of Purdue University. You would expect a person in my position to promote and extol the importance of education. You might say it's my job. But I am also speaking to you this evening on a very personal note. I have seen the power of education at work in my own life.

I grew up in Chicago, the proud son of a grocer, the grandson of a farmer. My father had a family grocery business in Chicago. I worked in that store. I stocked shelves. I cut meat. I swept floors and assisted customers.

I enjoyed the grocery business, and at a young age I seriously considered staying in it. I remember being particularly awestruck by one man I worked with. He handled huge sides of beef and could lift incredibly heavy objects with ease. I was very impressed by him.

One day he privately said to me: "Don't kid yourself. This job isn't fun, it's tough, back-breaking work. If you want to get somewhere, get an education." To show you how much that moment impressed me, I can still remember it vividly, though it took place 50 years ago.

I enjoyed school. But no one in my family had ever been to college. This idea of higher education was very new to us. My parents encouraged me to continue my studies. They understood the importance of it. But they did not have the money to pay for it. I was fortunate to get an academic scholarship to the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. And that started me on my way. I did my graduate work at MIT.

And today, this son of a grocer and the first college graduate in his family has the opportunity to lead one of the largest and most exciting research universities in the world. This is an opportunity that was beyond the hopes, dreams, and promise of my father and my grandfather. Education has opened opportunities for me. It has changed and enriched my life, and the lives of our children.

But the reason I am telling you this story is not to dramatize my own life. My story is simply one small example of the way education has transformed the lives of literally millions of people. And as education has transformed the lives of individuals, it has elevated and strengthened our nation and society.

President John F. Kennedy said: "Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities. Because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone, and greater strength for our nation."

Hard labor, solid work ethics, entrepreneurship – all of these helped to make this country the strong nation that it is today. But at the heart of America's limitless potential for greatness is education. Education is our most powerful tool for building an even better tomorrow.

We think of the United States today as the land of promise and opportunity. And it is. But education, the cornerstone of promise and opportunity, has not always been within the grasp of common men and women. Our founders put no mention of education in the Bill of Rights.

In the 18th century, when this nation was founded, educational opportunities were limited. Higher education was reserved mainly for the wealthy and elite, and overwhelmingly for men.

The real promise and opportunity that are the hallmarks of this nation emerged from a consensus that grew among the people. It was a consensus that became louder, stronger, and more determined as this nation flourished and prospered. It was a consensus based on the principle that if all people truly are created equal with certain unalienable rights, then among those rights must be education. This conviction in the power and promise of education brought forth two of most remarkable, far-reaching pieces of legislation in the history of humankind.

In the mid-1800s, Justin Morrill, a Vermont congressman, led a movement that believed higher education should not be limited to the elite. Morrill, and others like him, believed higher education should be available to all the masses of people.

It was a turning point in history when President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Land-Grant Act of 1862. That act provided the means for states to create new universities dedicated to learning, discovery, and engagement – all for the public good. Within eight years, 37 states had initiated these institutions of higher learning – among them, Purdue. Today, there are more than 100 land-grant colleges and universities swept across the breadth of this great country offering promise and opportunity to all. The Morrill Act helped to provide the spark the young American republic most needed to flourish: An educated people.

Nineteenth-century writer James Russell Lowell commented: "It was in making education not only common to all, but in some sense compulsory on all, that the destiny of America was settled."

But still, by 1940 only two out of five Americans had been educated past the eighth grade. In 1940, only 16 percent of Americans 18 to 21 years of age were enrolled in universities. Today, 57 percent of U.S. high school seniors move on to college. This dramatic change in higher education within a 60-year time span was sparked by the G.I. Bill at the end of World War II.

The Land-Grant Act built doors to higher education. The G.I. Bill opened those doors and allowed people to pour in. The G.I. Bill provided funds making it possible to educate huge numbers of individuals who never before even considered attending college. Many thousands of people became – like me – the first in their families to receive a university degree.

The G.I. Bill educated a generation. And that generation sent its children to universities and now its grandchildren.

The enormous economic growth and social advancements that fueled the 20th century took place predominantly after World War II. That is when the G.I. Bill educated people in the emerging technologies of the day.

Who were these people?

They were people like Kenneth Johnson, who grew up before the war on remote farms in Arkansas and Missouri and went to a one-room schoolhouse surrounded by mud. He came to Purdue on the G.I. Bill, graduated with a degree in engineering, and went on to help revolutionize airplane engine technology working for General Electric.

They were people like Billy Christensen, who finished his studies at Purdue in 1950 on the G.I. Bill and took a job with a punch card company. He went on to become vice president and general manager of the international arm of that company, IBM.

They were people like Bill Rose, who barely survived the Depression before he went to war and then came to Purdue on the G.I. Bill fresh out of the Navy. He graduated and took a job with the Joint Long-Range Proving Ground at the Banana River Naval Station. We know it today as the Kennedy Space Center.

The G.I. Bill was an investment in people that has paid for itself many times over during the past 56 years. The Land-Grant Act of the 19th century and the G.I. Bill of the 20th changed America. Thanks to the commitment of our forefathers and mothers who believed in the power of learning and paid the price to promote its promise, today's generation of young people is better educated than any other in our history.

David Kearns, the former CEO of Xerox and a former U.S. secretary of education, said: "Education should not compete with the national defense, the trade deficit or AIDS. Instead, think of (education) as (the) solution to problems."

We are the product of generations of Americans who believed the solutions to our nation's problems could be found through public investments in education.

Last fall the Public Opinion Laboratory at IUPUI conducted a poll of Indiana registered voters. Participants were asked to list the most important problems and concerns in their communities.

Overwhelmingly – by a margin of nearly 10 percent – the single most significant concern was education. After that came an array of problems which can be grouped into three areas: taxes and the economy; crime; and health care.

The economy, crime, and health care are the most often listed concerns in communities and states throughout this nation.

Education, as David Kearns said, is the answer to them all.

First, the economy. Education is central to the economy of our nation. It is central to the economic future of this state and our communities.

Here are the facts: In a lifetime, the average person with a university bachelor's degree will earn 1.7 times more than an average high school graduate – a difference of nearly $650,000.

A person with a master's degree will make more than twice the earnings of a high school graduate – a $1 million difference over a lifetime.

A person with a Ph.D. will exceed the lifetime earnings of a person with a high school diploma by 2.8 times – a $1.6 million difference.

Education makes an impact on a person's bottom line.

These elevated earnings of better-educated people mean a higher quality of life and a higher standard of living for them and for their families.

These higher salaries also mean more tax revenue for the state of Indiana to continue investments in education; more money for roads and highways; more money for charities; civic projects; and community programs.

An educated population attracts top businesses and industries, which in turn provide even more high-paying jobs and even more revenue for our state and its communities.

Without question, Indiana's economy depends on a first-rate educational system. Education is the best answer to the economic problems that beset our state and nation.

Second in the IUPUI poll was crime.

Education can reduce crime and violence in our society. The national Center on Crime, Communities and Culture states: "There is a strong link between low levels of education and high rates of criminal activity."

Two-thirds of Americans behind bars are less literate than the general adult population. About 44 percent of Indiana prison inmates do not have a 12th grade education or a G.E.D. The Federal Bureau of Prisons reports the more education an individual receives, the less likely he or she will be re-imprisoned.

Purdue North Central has associate and bachelor degree programs in two Indiana prisons.

We are making an impact.

In a 15-year-old program at Westville Correctional Center, we now have 80 to 100 students enrolled. In a 2-year program at Lakeside Correctional Center here in Michigan City, we have about 50 students.

Of about 500 individuals who have gone through these programs, we know of fewer than 12 who have returned to prison. That is a recidivism rate of less than 3 percent in a nation where 40 percent of the total prison population is incarcerated again after being released.

After earning a bachelor's degree from Purdue while in prison, one of our graduates took further course work at the General Motors Institute and at the University of Michigan. He is now a statistical quality control officer for a major corporation.

Another graduate is an actuary who recently donated a Dell computer system to our program. It was an appropriate gift. He took his first computer classes with us while he was in prison.

We've had students complete our course work and go on to receive additional degrees from DePaul University, the University of Nevada Las Vegas, the University of Hawaii, Indiana University at Bloomington, all our regional campuses and Purdue University at West Lafayette. Education is the best answer to the problem of crime in Indiana and in the United States.

And here is a fact to consider: The amount of money it costs to keep an adult in an Indiana prison for one year is more than three times the annual state appropriation per full-time student at Purdue.

Third in the IUPUI poll was health.

Education means better health. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says in all age categories, people with higher levels of education have fewer health problems. Education means a longer, healthier, more productive life. The U.S. age-adjusted death rate for those with less than 12 years of education is 2.5 times higher than the rate of those with 13 years of education or more.

In a recent article for The Chronicle of Higher Education, Gordon Davies, president of the Kentucky Council on Post Secondary Education, said unequivocally: "Higher education is a public health issue."

Among statistics Davies quoted to support that statement is the 5-year survival rate of women with breast cancer. It is twice as great for college-educated females as for those without a high school degree.

Higher education results in people who have better health insurance, who are more aware of health issues, and who feel empowered to control their health and their destiny.

In a 1997 U.S. Centers for Disease Control report, Indiana ranked third highest in obesity, 10th highest in smoking, and 13th highest in high blood pressure.

Indiana ranked near the bottom in preventive measures: 36th in blood cholesterol tests, 47th in mammograms, and 50th in clinical breast examinations.

Compare those health statistics with our education level.

Indiana ranks 47th in the nation in the percentage of population age 25 and older with a bachelor's degree.

Education is among the best answers to health problems – and the personal, social, and economic turmoil they create in Indiana and throughout the United States.

The positive impacts of education don't end here.

The social and economic benefits of education ripple through our society and touch every aspect of our lives and communities. A recent national, benchmark survey showed that a four-year university degree is the biggest factor in determining how much a parent knows about child development.

Education – is the source of leadership.

Education – is a vehicle for coming to grips with the issues that face our communities, state, and nation.

Education – provides us with the capacity to handle change in this fast-paced world.

Education – prepares people to deal with ambiguity and complicated questions.

Education – gives us an understanding of our world and ourselves, and the ability to think critically in a way that leads to social progress.

Because of the complexity of the world today, because of the rapid advance of science and technology, we live in a time in which education is more important than ever before. We are living at a time in human development when the necessity for education has been taken to a new level.

Simply to become functioning, contributing citizens today, people need more education than at any other time in our history.

Those of us fortunate enough to call Indiana home live in a great state with a high quality of life and a good standard of living. We have rich culture in our cities and small-town friendliness in our vast rural countryside. Unemployment is low.

But there is room for improvement. Our employment is shifting. Manufacturing, the traditional foundation of Indiana's economy, now offers a smaller percentage of jobs than the service sector. Indiana has lost more than 40,000 manufacturing jobs in the past 18 months. And they are not coming back. Hoosier wages and salaries have dropped from 100 percent of the national average in 1980 to 87 percent in the year 2000.

Last year Biz Voice, the magazine of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, reported trouble in the Indiana economy.

We rank 50th among states in high-tech job growth between 1993 and 1998.

We rank 43rd in the number of new startup companies.

We rank 38th in job growth during the past 10 years.

And here is one of the reasons: We rank 35th in university research and development expenditures.

And here is another reason: We rank 15th in the number of bachelor's degrees awarded each year, but – we rank 47th in the nation in the percentage of population age 25 and older who have a bachelor's degree.

That is brain drain. And that is a huge challenge as our best and brightest graduates leave this state to contribute their promise elsewhere. The good news is that we are reversing this trend at Purdue.

During the past four years, the percentage of our graduates remaining in Indiana has increased from 52 percent to 65 percent. But we have further to go. We have higher standards to meet. In terms of funding for K-12 education, Indiana is about average. In 1999, our per pupil expenditure ranked 19th among the 50 states. At $6,589 per student, Indiana cleared the national average by less than $200.

Our expenditures were closer to the lowest-ranked state – Utah – than the highest – New Jersey. Fifty-five percent of Indiana's budget goes to education. More than 41 percent of it goes to K-12.

In higher education: Last year, Indiana ranked 32nd in per capita expenditures from state and local governments.

On the West Lafayette campus this year, our fees and state appropriation per student rank dead last in the Big Ten. They are nearly $3,000 per student below the average. Indiana research universities are funded at 71 percent of the average for Big Ten institutions.

Our regional campuses also rank near the bottom in funding per student.

What are we getting for our investment in education? The numbers vary, but there is reason for hope. In a national comparison of math skills, Indiana eighth-graders ranked 17th four years ago. Today, they've jumped to fourth, according to figures used by the governor in his State of the State address.

Our standards for math, language arts, science, and social studies are among the highest in the nation.

The number of Indiana high school students who enter college has jumped dramatically in recent years. Indiana now ranks 17th among the 50 states in the percentage of high school graduates continuing in college. In 1986, we ranked 40th.

And with the new Community College system making it possible for all Indiana high school students to continue their education, these numbers will continue to grow.

SAT scores for Indiana high school students average 1,000. That's just below the national average of 1020. There are places in Indiana where SAT scores are excellent. And there are pockets where the numbers are sadly lagging. In West Lafayette the average is 1184. In Carmel the average SAT score is 1077. In Warren County it is 932. In Gary it is 786. That is a swing of 400 points.

While many parts of the state are making tremendous progress, there are areas where young people are being left behind in the promise of education. This is an enormous challenge and we must face it.

One of the greatest risks facing this state and nation is the possibility that America will become a society divided along educational lines, with a large sector of our population trapped by a lack of learning and training – and a resulting lack of opportunity.

As we look at Indiana and compare its economy and education to the rest of the nation, a pattern emerges. We tend to be average. Very often when compared with other states in any number of areas, Indiana falls into the middle of the pack – sometimes slightly higher, sometimes a little lower, but mostly in the middle.

The middle is a comfortable place to be. There are few risks in the middle. For too many, it is acceptable to be average. It becomes a place where we begin to believe we belong.

But I believe the people of Indiana deserve something better than average. I believe our children deserve more than our average efforts and our average expectations. I believe today is the time for the people of Indiana to commit to a higher calling. That higher calling is excellence.

We should commit ourselves to being among the best in everything that we do. Indiana is internationally known for basketball. Everywhere we go and mention Indiana, people think basketball. I wish everywhere we went and mentioned Indiana, people would think education as well.

British writer W. Somerset Maugham said. "It's a funny thing about life. If you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it."

We must refuse to accept anything but the best from Indiana education.

Today Purdue is reaching forward to shape its destiny by developing strategic plans that will guide us, and our state, into the future. Three years ago our Board of Trustees made a very important decision. They determined Purdue was in good shape, excellent in many regards. They also concluded that business as usual was not what Purdue or the state of Indiana needed. They decided the time was right to take Purdue to the next level. And to achieve that next level of excellence, Purdue was going to have to think more strategically and take charge of its future.

We benchmarked Purdue with 11 nationally prominent, public universities. We now have plans for action – plans for excellence – based on our findings. We are adding 300 new faculty members, and increasing their time in the classroom.

We are offering more competitive salaries to recruit and keep top faculty and staff. We are investing more than three-quarters of a billion dollars in the modernization and expansion of our infrastructure, and we're stepping up research.

We believe these actions will transform Purdue University. And we believe they have the promise and the potential to transform the state of Indiana.

As we work together to improve higher education in Indiana, we must also commit ourselves to doing more at the beginning of the educational system. And it all begins with parents in the earliest stages of family life. We need lifelong learners today. High school is not the time to instill the goal of lifelong learning in young people. Junior high is too late. We need to instill the importance of education into the thinking of a child's first teacher – its parents.

Parents must promote the importance of education before a child even begins kindergarten. Last fall the NAACP and several other organizations, launched a major national campaign to encourage African-American and Latino parents to become more involved in the education of their children.

The campaign is titled "Success In School Equals Success in Life." It is founded on studies that conclude parents are the greatest factor in determining the educational success of their children.

NAACP President and CEO Kweisi Mfume says: "Studies confirm that when families are involved in their children's education in positive ways, children achieve higher grades and test scores,have better attendance at school, complete more homework, demonstrate more positive attitudes and behavior, graduate at higher rates, and have greater enrollment in higher education."

The earlier parents promote education in a child's life, the greater the promise for that young person's future. We need to think of education in Indiana as one seamless system from pre-kindergarten through post-graduate. We need to think and fund education this way, because this is the way our children need to think and act as they prepare for their future.

Children cannot take full advantage of education if they get off to a slow start as infants, without family and community support. If they start behind, they will struggle to catch up. And sadly, the evidence is that too many never catch up. Too often they give up and become trapped in a cycle of poverty.

National studies support the enormous benefits of preschool education. A recent study looked at children from blighted neighborhoods in Chicago.

It compared youths who had participated in a Head Start-like program for 4-year-olds with children from the same neighborhood who went to all-day kindergarten, but did not participate in preschool.

The results were amazing. Children who took part in the preschool had a 29 percent higher high school completion rate. They were 40 percent less likely to be held back a grade; 41 percent less likely to need special education programs. They were 42 percent less likely to be arrested for a violent crime. The average cost of this preschool is under $7,000 per child. The average payback per child is estimated at nearly $48,000.

A report issued by Education Week this year praised Indiana for the progress it is making in education. But – it said Indiana is lagging behind in funding early-childhood education for more than 420,000 preschoolers. We have no state-supported pre-kindergarten programs. Nationally, 39 states and the District of Columbia together are spending more than $1.9 billion a year on pre kindergarten.

In Indiana today, we must commit to excellence in education – preschool through post-graduate. And we cannot commit to excellence if we are unwilling to commit our resources. Indiana takes pride in its ranking as a low tax state when compared with the rest of the country. Using 1996 data, Robert Tannewald of the Boston Federal Reserve Bank ranked Indiana taxes 40th in the nation. His study put Indiana tax rates 12 percent below than the national average.

There are positive aspects in low tax rates. We all like low tax rates. Our politicians boast about low tax rates when they come to us asking for our votes.

But Indiana would be a stronger state with a better economy, lower crime, better health if we were the education state instead of the low tax state. In a society that want the best for its children in everything, how can we fail to provide them with anything but the best in what they need most: education. The time is now for a renewed commitment to education in Indiana and in this nation. It is time for us to fulfill the promise of education today in the same manner as our forefathers and mothers.

We need a plan for the 21st century that will have the same vision, the same commitment, the same impact as the Land-Grant Act in the 19th century and the G.I. Bill in the 20th.

We need a plan for the 21st century that will change Indiana and change America just as the Land-Grant Act and the G.I. Bill changed this nation in earlier times.

We all know that this will cost money. Lots of money. But – failure to provide a high-quality education to all our citizens carries the highest price imaginable.

It costs our young people their future, their hopes, and their dreams. It costs society the enormous, lifetime fruits of their potentials. The stakes in all of this are very high. The stakes – are incredibly high.

But I believe we, as a people, are capable of accomplishing this the great challenge of our lifetime. The promise of education is our promise. It is our promise to the future. It is our promise to our children. It is a promise that we must keep above everything else.

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