Thursday, March 20, 2008

Education: Biggest Long Term Threat To America?

If you've ever worked in a real successful company, you know that great success can hide a good many weaknesses. When I worked at Microsoft, it wasn't that the company was perfect or did things in a way that made sense all the time, it was the company could afford errors. A little disfunctionalism would not slay the giant.

The same thing can be true for countries. A sub-standard educational system couldn't slay the giant last century, but I'm no so sure about this one. Obama just gave his race speech, and in it, he talked about unequal opportunities to get an education. Corporate leaders regularly gripe about how hard it is to find enough well educated workers. Students spend time jumping from concept to concept without understanding the basics.

The US has a good college and a great community college system. Yet we can't teach high school students how to find China on a map, write at a 10th grade level, or do basic algebra.

It's a complex issue with many solutions, but I believe we ignore our biggest weakness, or don't want to talk about it. Local control and local funding. Failures to teach basic math, language, and cultural literacy are a roadblock to success for the entire country. Funding and developing curriculum state by state, county by county, and even town by town is absurd.

Every student should have an equal opportunity to be challenged, develop critical thinking skills, and achieve a base level of understanding of math, science, language, and culture.

Of course, that would challenge those who profit by ignorance. Those who peddle anti-science, anti-history, and all other anti-knowledge agendas are entrenched in our power structure. Of course, all of those agendas weaken our country, and it's about time we did away with them.

That's my argument. Nationalize the schools.


  1. I agree with your prognosis though I have to say I disagree with your solution. Nationalizing education, if I understand you correctly, would have a number of ill effects.

    1.) It would push the individual to rely on the government to fulfill yet another of his own responsibilities.

    2.) It would give the federal government the final say in what is taught and how. The closer I get to washington, the more I realize how little many of them seem to care about 'truth' and how much more they care about their own agenda. IMHO, putting primary and secondary education in the hands of the federal government will eventually put 'truth' in their hands. That's more power than the founders of this government ever intended to place in one pot, and it's more responsibility than I'd assert any single body of power has the chutzpah to manage.

    An alternative, I would say, is that the people have to want to improve themselves. I'm not yet ready to admit that America has unreturnably reached a 'class' phase and that people can't freely move about the system hindered only by their lack of motivation. It's not the federal government's fault that it's atomic unit (the family) has been faltering. And I don't think the innerworkings of the family should ever become the federal government's business.

    Personally, I consider education to be the responsibility of the individual as well as the family which is why I support the homeschooling movement.

    Point is, there are a billion problems regarding childrearing that arise when the concept of a 'family' is ignored. Many of these are being addressed by various Faiths. This may be where we part ways, but I'd suggest that there is a body of believers out there whose faith transcends the denominational boundaries. They have closed their minds around what they believe because what they believe is something that, though it be fantastic, has only been affirmed over time. This allows them the luxury of offering aid to anyone regardless of political, religious, or sexual persuasion. They should be the ones to handle issues of the individual and family.

    <3 Musselman

  2. Thanks for the comment. We'll have to agree to disagree on this one (probably not the last time).
    My argument is against local control. Dropping the educational burden on individuals only drives the wedge between the well educated and the poorly educated deeper.

    Only those children who were smart enough to choose parents with education and spare time or wealth will have a decent education. The rest will sink, dragging the economy and country with them.

    Empowering the individual is a powerful tool, but a flawed ideology. In the 21st century, the countries that invest in their people will be the ones to survive. We'll need both empowered individuals, and a populace that is well educated regardless of who their parents are.