Brenau University President Ed Schrader addresses graduates.

Higher education is great for America

There is a lot of naysaying, blaming and finger-pointing going on in the world today. But the most dangerous, malicious, egregiously erroneous, anti-American lies propagated by some are that education is not as useful as it used to be and that educated folk tend to have an agenda. Those notions are simply not true. Such rhetoric might work for firing up a campaign rally, but left unchecked it will destroy America’s international leadership and tear down our overall quality of life.

Let this be crystal clear: America’s educational system dominates the world because we unquestionably have the world’s best universities producing the best professional graduates. No other nation comes close to challenging that.

That is why it troubled me to read about a recent poll from the nonpartisan Pew Research Center that said 58 percent of one segment of our voting-age population responded that higher education is bad for America. Polls usually do not bother me so much, but I am a little vexed that the perpetrators of these dangerous myths probably have done a better job of “educating” the public on how bad higher education is for America than we as educators have done of dispelling the lie. We have been too quiet.

The higher the education level of a nation, the higher its earning capacity per capita and the lower its overall poverty. Therefore, to undervalue education, educational institutions or educators is to kill the golden goose, to destroy America’s future and to abdicate America’s position as leader of the free world. You cannot sustain the miracle of 21st-century society and culture without an educated and informed leadership and citizenry. Once you kill the preservation and passing of knowledge from one generation to the next, it is gone. You cannot get it back.

In this issue of Brenau Window, you will see members of the Brenau family who have spent at least part of their careers in government service and who credit their educational experience at Brenau as one of the most significant preparatory credentials for whatever success they enjoyed in those endeavors.

These remarkable individuals represent a broad cross section of the political spectrum. Their service to our democracy ranges from time in the hallowed halls of Congress to duty in squad cars of local police forces. They are good for America because they all have given part of themselves to their country. Any help Brenau gave to prepare them for that service has been good for our country, too.

Education is one way to achieve the American Dream, a reality grounded on these shores long before there was an America, and it has been a necessity fervently endorsed in word and deed by leaders of all parties since the founding fathers. American leaders chartered Harvard in 1636, William & Mary in 1693 and the University of Georgia, the first public university, in 1785. What did W&M graduate Thomas Jefferson do when he left government service? He founded the University of Virginia. What did Abraham Lincoln do when in the midst of civil war, looking toward the vastly expanding America that would exist after it? He signed an act that would create in every state some of the finest institutions of higher learning on the globe. Presidents Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower implemented higher education programs for World War II veterans and their children as essential tools in rebuilding the war-torn world and in helping our country compete with friends and adversaries in the technological and economic revolution of the last half of the 20th century.

It is the worst kind of sin to convince others not to pursue their highest personal achievement, their highest calling. Simply, the more we collectively know as a nation, the stronger our nation will be, the more we can help those who need it and the better equipped we are to defeat those who would destroy the America we love.

The United States must continuously prepare intellectually and technologically to compete in foreign trade, information technology, cybersecurity and warfare, weaponry, and global economic and financial power, so that we can both lead and compete with other nations in times of conflict and times of peaceful prosperity.

Let’s think beyond the short term and prepare the way for the next generation. The major building block for sustaining and expanding America’s unassailable position of global leadership rests, as it always has, on the firm foundation of American higher


Ed L. Schrader, Ph.D.

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