Education and the Election

By:  Sam Blumenfeld
Education and the Election

 In a previous article I referred to education as the “orphan issue” in this great presidential election. Of course, every candidate mumbles something about education, but everyone seems to know that American public education is like some sort of huge stone, like the one in Mecca, that is impossible to move. It just sits there inert, unresponsive, brainless. Yet, it absorbs billions of dollars a year and turns out many young Americans who can barely read or write.

 In a previous article I referred to education as the “orphan issue” in this great presidential election. The only serious consideration of the subject at the Republican National Convention was given in a speech by Condoleezza Rice. She had just participated in a Council on Foreign Relations Task Force on education, which produced a very pessimistic view of American K-12 schooling. Its press release stated:

"Educational failure puts the United States' future economic prosperity, global position, and physical safety at risk," warns the Task Force, chaired by Joel I. Klein, former head of New York City public schools, and Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. secretary of state. The country "will not be able to keep pace — much less lead — globally unless it moves to fix the problems it has allowed to fester for too long," argues the Task Force.

The report notes that while the United States invests more in K-12 public education than many other developed countries, its students are ill prepared to compete with their global peers. According to the results of the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), an international assessment that measures the performance of 15-year-olds in reading, mathematics, and science every three years, U.S. students rank fourteenth in reading, twenty-fifth in math, and seventeenth in science compared to students in other industrialized countries.

Rice warned that something had to be done to improve the education of our children, or else we would be unable to produce the brains needed to excel as a nation. Diane Ravich, the education writer, told an interviewer on C-Span that only 30 percent of the American people are literate, and it is they who provide America with the brains to maintain our continued economic prominence. But how much more prosperous would we be if 100 percent of Americans were literate?

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Sam Blumenfeld (photo)

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