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Del. Ken Plum: The Quest for Education

by Del. Ken Plum May 17, 2018 at 1:30 pm 16 Comments

Del. Ken Plum/File photoThis is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

I can remember the conversation almost word for word even though it occurred decades ago. The counselor in my high school asked me to come to her office, and there she told me it was time for me to start preparing applications to go to college. I was about to fall out of my chair. I explained to her that no one in my family had ever been to college, and there was no way that I could go. Most of my family had never finished high school. She told me that lots of people are the first in their families to go to college and that I could be such a person. I did not know what to answer; it was such a new idea that she proposed to me.

Secretly inside she had set ablaze in me a fire that would never go out. The excitement of the idea that I could go to college and learn about so many new things of which I had been curious was more than I could contain. I was skeptical, however, and I did not go to college the first year out of high school. The next year with lots of fear and trepidation I did start my education at a higher level, and I never have stopped.

From my Bachelor of Arts at Old Dominion College, now University, to my master’s in education at the University of Virginia to a thirty-year career with Fairfax County Public Schools, to the Plum Center for Lifelong Learning being named in my honor, to my teaching at George Mason University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, education both formal and informal has been a fundamental part of who I am. I can still feel the excitement that I have had in being a part of so many different educational experiences.

All these reminiscences about my educational background came back last week as my grandson received his MBA from Virginia Tech. Growing up in a family where the highest educational achievement was a brother who graduated from high school, I now live in a family where I, my wife and our children and grandchildren have among us 14 college degrees with six of those degrees being beyond the bachelor’s level. I am honored to represent a district with constituents who are among the very best educated in the state.

Needless to say, education is among the highest priorities I have as a legislator. I want all students to have access to educational programs that will help them realize their highest potential. Fundamental to me is that our educational system leave all students with a quest for knowledge and the appropriate tools with which to pursue their interests. We cannot afford to have students not like school, nor can we ignore the fact that learning is a lifelong adventure. We have the institutions and the resources to make education at higher levels the best in the Nation. Virginia needs to join the states that are making community colleges free. Can we afford it? The answer is simply that we cannot afford not to!

  • Pen Klum

    (keeping in mind Ken’s past opinion pieces and “teachings”) this post is simply bragging about Ken and Plum family white privilege. Why hoard all the education? That is discriminatory.

    And stop requesting hand outs! Hard work builds character, reflect on that.

  • Anonymous Person

    Education funding has been on a steady upward march, even factoring in inflation, for decades. Education results have been on the decline for just as long.

    While there are many factors that contribute to this, it seems clear that increased funding has not been a solution nor shown any strong correlation to better educational results.

    I’m not proposing cutting education spending. I am proposing not increasing education funding. Clearly funding isn’t the issue with poor education results, given decades worth of data.

  • The Constitutionalist

    Dear Ken the Educated,

    No one cares.

    Everyone Ever

  • guest

    Funny that you say that. Because from what I can remember during your last Town Hall(about a month ago) at Lake Anne, a young man asked you why didn’t Virginia support this and why hasn’t it been done, you answered “we never thought about it”. Bulova then stated “well we support K12, so we are supporting education. He pointed to other states that had programs and you both acted and stated like you knew nothing about those programs. Low and behold Maryland gets a program that provides free Community College and now you want to act like you’re outraged Va. doesn’t. If you’re truly think we can’t afford not to, I expect this program to be implemented ASAP. Faster than all the costly tax payer decisions you push on us that NO ONE WANTS. How about you push something like this that we can all agree on and that will actually help the middle class and average Fairfax County resident? Free Community College is a win for both the residents and children here in our community. Hopefully that young man is reading this article and puts some pressure on you, along with students, residents, and our elected officials that care about the people and community they represent

    • 30yearsinreston

      Trust Bulova to try and get credit for a mandatory local government responsibility that the residents pay for

  • yvan eth nioj

    Join the military if you want free collage. Simple.

    • OneReally

      Agreed! While I understand your comment. Your paying with your investment of time and giving the Federal say about your life.
      I was in the military for 7 years and yes this is how I paid for my degree.

    • Willie Reston

      …coming from someone who surely could have used some of that fancy “collage” edumacation.

  • 30yearsinreston

    After such a glorious career, its time to retire from the public gravy train
    The pasture awaits

  • Reston Realist

    If someone wants free college then they can move to a state which offers it. Pretty simple…. I guess you must have missed the class on common sense during your illustrious education and career on the dole

  • Fran McElvey

    You are right on Ken! Education is the answer to help our state and all states prepare for the future. We should be supporting at least some funding for community colleges. It’s always perplexed me when people would refuse to support education with comments like, “Well, I don’t have any kids in school.” Don’t they want a well informed society with people who know what they are doing? Jobs that didn’t require college twenty years ago are much more complex today, often requiring some advanced education. I’d rather educate young folks early on rather than later when they are down and out because they don’t have a future.

    • Willie Reston

      “Don’t they want a well informed society with people who know what they are doing?”

      Republicans sure don’t want that. A truly well-informed society would spell the end of their party, or at least the agendas they’re currently pushing.

      • OneReally

        You so misinformed!

    • OneReally

      “We should be supporting at least some funding for community colleges.”

      Do you have a money tree?

  • Guest

    Hundreds of thousands of educators have earned advanced degreed in their fields…they have lots of letters as suffixes after their names as a “testament” to their achievement…but if they are so smart then why can’t Johnny read?

  • HILLARY 2020

    Lets be honest for just ONE nano second. Hillary lost the election by none other than Bill, he was seriously worried his wife – a woman no less – would upstand him and outdo his legacy as POTUS. So this is really about the education of Bill, could have not said it better myself.

    Thanks, Ken ♡


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