Monday, November 17, 2008
US education: dying on the vine?
Ex-secretary of labor Robert Reich was asked what the top 3 priorities for the Obama administration will be. His answer; "The economy, the economy and the economy." Coming from an ex-secretary of labor, these answers make sense. However, if it were not for imploding economy, education would also be competing for attention with the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, Energy, Healthcare reform, oh and did I mention the economy?
Education, however, is not a stand alone issue. Read New York Times Op Ed columnist, Nicholas Kristof's thoughtful article, "Obama and our Schools". Education has a major impact on poverty. Listen to NPR's On Point and their show on "American Competitiveness" with Harvard Business School Guru Michael Porter, and understand how our long-term competitiveness as a nation depends on our educational system.
Is this a crisis? Yes it is. The problem with this crisis is that it is decades in the making and won't go away in the short-term just by throwing billions of dollars at it like Wall Street, Fannie & Freddie, AIG, and next our auto industry.
Porter makes reference several times to OECD data. Want to see the cold hard facts? Download the powerpoint on the United States and you can see clearly how there is a disconnect between US student aspirations, what the US spends on education and our overall student achievement and graduation rates. Listen to this OECD podcast to get a nice overview of the trends and impacts of education, not just in the US, but in all OECD countries.
Education is our edge against global competition. Now it looks like we are going to use this now rusty edge not to commit a quick, news worthy hari-kiri like Wall Street, but to die slowly and silently of gangrene unless we make some tough structural changes to our educational system. A system that needs to improve the prospects of the fastest growing segments of our population; the poor and minorities.
What are your thoughts on the US education system?