Letter: Genius without education is like silver in the mine

“Genius without education is like silver in the mine.” —Benjamin Franklin. One of the main purposes of public education is to ensure that gifted children whose families could not afford a private education could have their minds and talents cultivated, thus still blessing society with the contributions it may otherwise have gone without, had an education been unaffordable to them.

For nearly seventy years now, Mt. Edgecumbe High School (MEHS) has been a family environment in which students from across Alaska, with a wide range of interests, and a broad cross-section of skill levels could go if they wanted more opportunities than their hometown school offered, whether rural or urban. MEHS has turned out a wide variety of graduates, who have made contributions across our state in a wide variety of venues. Some have gone to Ivy League schools, many have earned degrees, and many serve in their local governments and village and regional corporations. Some are teachers, some are lawyers, and some are engineers.

Now, even in this era in which “choice” in education is all the rage, the state is actively considering completely denying an entire subset of our population an educational choice which has benefited so many, by replacing the four-year, accredited high school that is open to all Alaskans to explore or discover what interests them, with a more narrowly-focused three-year program, focusing almost solely on the sciences. While the sentiment behind this is a worthy endeavor and fills a gap that needs to be filled, doing so by giving MEHS to the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP) would create a new gap by eliminating an already successful and longstanding program with a tradition of excellence. The idea of the academy should be given consideration, but in another venue. It’s never a good idea to “Rob Peter to pay Paul.”

We all know we’re in a budget crunch in our state, but if the legislature really wants to support this idea of ANSEP’s acceleration academy, replacing MEHS with it is simply not the right way to go. Limiting the educational choices of a large part of our population is a step in the wrong direction when what we need is to maintain a high quality choice for the next generation of leaders who will continue to address the looming budget difficulties in our state. Regardless of any budget crunch, a widely held belief in our Alaska Native cultures, echoed in our Alaska history is that “Our children are our greatest resource.” This has never been more true than it is in this fight to preserve the crucial mission of MEHS today. Uphold educational choice, and help “Save the Brave.”

Dionne Brady-Howard,