UAA forum to discuss education in democracy

A forum discussing the value of education in a democracy takes place at the University of Alaska Anchorage campus Tuesday evening. The panel features former Alaska Supreme Court justices, doctors, education and immigration experts and others. Professor Sheila Selkregg teaches policy making in the public administration master’s program at UAA. She says education is a unifying force.

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SELKREGG: Who we are is reflected in what we understand as we grow up and see the world. And so, as we create messages through education that are messages grounded around our history, which is really a wonderful history in many ways of a nation of people who came here and didn’t do so well taking care of the people who were here, but for newcomers it was a place to come where people could change their lives and do great things. So, education’s a big piece of all that.

TOWNSEND: Following along that same line, why do you think people need to be reminded of the value of education? What’s going on that they need to have this conversation now?

SELKREGG: Well, there’s a couple of things that are really important right now. One of them is that every poll you look at, we’re extraordinarily divided and we have two different views of the country. We’ve got this 50-50 view and one of it is that government is bad and we need to get rid of the guys in Washington and we shouldn’t have to pay, and every man for himself because that’s where we’re going. And the other is a sense of commitment to community and pulling together. And in a sense, those things have always been a part of our history. And that tension, in some ways, keeps us healthy. But I think what’s happened is… I can remember when people disagreed with each other and learned from each other from conversation. And we are now really creating this sense of demonizing both sides. So, it is really important for us to find the things that matter to all of us, and education matters to all of us. It’s our children, it supports our economy, it trains our nurse, it trains our doctors, it trains our lawyers, it trains our people who build our roads. It’s so important, and for a long time, we had more of a sense of unity around funding education, but what we’re seeing is that divide really result in underfunding or reducing the funding for education across our country in a big way. And in the end, nationally, that doesn’t position us well to compete in the world.

Sheila Selkregg teaches policy in the graduate program at UAA. The Value of Education in a Democratic Society public forum takes place at the UAA consortium library Tuesday evening from 6 to 9.

Lori Townsend is the news director and senior host for Alaska Public Media. You can send her news tips and program ideas for Talk of Alaska and Alaska Insight at or call 907-550-8452.

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