Count Your Blessings

	 Nicholas D. Kristof/The New York Times  Dao Ngoc Phung, center, is obsessed with education as a way for the family to get ahead. She devotes herself to overseeing the schoolwork by her younger brother, Tien, and sister, Huong.

via Girls Just Want to Go to School – NYTimes.com.

Phung wakes her brother and sister, and then after breakfast they all trundle off to school. For Phung, that means a 90-minute bicycle ride each way. She arrives at school 20 minutes early to be sure she’s not late.

In a poor village in Vietnam,  Phung dreams of being an accountant.  During the week, she is the parent to her younger siblings while her father works in the city.  Their mother died of cancer a few years ago.

But Phung, and millions of other Asians in poor situations like hers, persevere because they know that education is their only hope to lift them out of poverty.

For all the differences between Vietnam and America, here’s a common truth: The best way to sustain a nation’s competitiveness is to build human capital. I wish we Americans, especially our politicians, could learn from Phung that our long-term strength will depend less on our aircraft carriers than on the robustness of our kindergartens, less on financing spy satellites than on financing Pell grants.

We have the luxury of a outstanding public education system, and few of our students have a 90 minute bike ride to attend their local school.  We need to do a better job of convincing children and their parents that it matters, or we’ll end up with Vietnam outsourcing their jobs to us.

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