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Education Is Key to National Security [OP-ED]

horror of September 11, 2001 has shocked our sense of reality and put into question our understanding of global conflict. The destruction of New York City's World Trade Center Twin Towers, the devastation at the Pentagon, and the downing of Flight 93 in Pennsylvania serve as a cold reminder that warfare is fought differently than ever before. Global conflict doesn't look like World War II or even the Vietnam conflict. It is no longer nation against nation. It has become intensely personal and conveniently global. It is a war against terrorism. Consequently, our response demands new thinking. Our nation's security is dependent upon a military force that can think critically, strategically, and with technological savvy. This war will not be fought with simple brute force. Rather, it will require exceptional intelligence and keen discernment. The unnecessary loss of more innocent lives can only be avoided with such an approach to combating terrorism. We have already seen the cowardice of terrorists who hide behind innocent men, women, and children to avoid being held accountable for their actions. Therefore, we must be skillful in our execution of military action so as to not risk losing more blameless lives. This takes a military like we have never seen before. We need exceptional leadership with intellectual mastery to devise precise strategies. We need technologically skillful troops who can implement these strategies with well-defined accuracy. Bottom-line: we need an exceptionally educated and skillful military. This means our education system must be more focused than ever before. We must bear down on core subject matter. We cannot afford to divert our teaching energies to nonsensical issues. We must demand more from our students. We must demand more from our parents. The tragedy of September 11, 2001 serves as this century's "Sputnik." History changed on October 4, 1957, when the Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik I. The world's first artificial satellite was about the size of a basketball, weighed just over 180 pounds, and took about 98 minutes to orbit the Earth. That launch ushered in new political, military, technological, and scientific developments. All of which resulted in revolutionizing the American education system. So too, will the devastation of September 11 change the education landscape of America. Tennessee cannot fail the nation by its lack of support for education. This is no time to be found near the bottom of the nation's education list. It is time for a new vision for Tennessee's education system. It is a time to reach new heights in teaching excellence and quality research. Tennessee must respond boldly to the nation's need for leadership. Tennessee must take immediate steps to bolster financial support for education in order to address the broad array of challenges facing our state and nation. This support must come in the form of private donations and government subsidy to both private and public education institutions. To quote Vice President Dick Cheney, the best way to "place our thumb into the eye of the terrorist" is to support our economy and enhance our society. This begins with education. Our present reality and our future hope as a civil society are dependent upon steely resolve toward a better-educated citizenry. The nation awaits Tennessee's response. Let us not squander this opportunity to take a leadership role in protecting and healing our great nation. Dr. Claude O. Pressnell, Jr. President Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association 2409 21st Avenue South, Suite 202 Nashville, TN 37212 (615) 242-6400, ext 201